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My child is being blocked from a school competition because of his involvement with an outside club - is that Discrimination?

Newport Beach, CA |

My son is a runner hoping to compete in a big invitational. He is being told "No" by coaches and administrators because he is a member of an outside club led by someone they don't like. Do I have to get them to verbally admit that's the reason in order to claim Discrimination? They're current reason is "because I said so..." (and the coach actually ran this same race during his HS years at the same HS!).
A mother in the group is gossiping and spreading lies about me to that same administration because I asked to be able to take him and anyone else that wants to go. Can I claim Defamation? And if they refuse to sign my papers to become a "voluntary" coach based on those statements, isn't that Discrimination too?
Ah, school administrations... Try to do something helpful... HELP!

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

Yes, this is discrimination. But it is not UNLAWFUL discrimination. Most discrimination is not unlawful unless it is based on specifically protected classifications such as race or national origin or religion, without a good and necessary reason.

The coach may or may not have the authority to make and enforce the decision that you are complaining about, but that is not an issue or question of unlawful discrimination or even of law. It is an issue of the school's policy. The school has the authority to make the decision re participation, and it has apparently delegated that authority to the coach. The school has a legal right to authorize the coach to make policies in this subject and to rely on his judgment so long as his judgment does not violate the law. But the school also has the power and right to overrule the coach and decide the issue differently.

If this is a public school, you might want to talk to an attorney who litigates civil rights and public spending issues against schools. A lawsuit based on your son's claim of a right to participate based on spending issues is a long long long-shot and would undoubtedly be very expensive. But a good discussion with a litigator in this legal subject matter may help you to understand the issue more clearly.

In all events, you do not have a defamation claim here and it is unlikely that any statements by a public employee coach would add up to defamation under any realistic circumstances.

This dispute is unlikely to resolve satisfactorily by reference to the laws and legal process. This is a challenge calling for high degrees of diplomacy. When the other side has all the power, you need the gift of persuasion, not the empty threat of a big stick. Good luck.

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It may be a little more complicated and more information is needed. If he is in high school this could be a violation of the high school rules. If they allow him to run it could jepordize the entire team. If this is a CIF school you need to look a the rules stated in the CIF blue book. We have delt with this situation before and sometimes it is just poor communication. The school should have rules also. If he is on the team and follows the rules he should be allowed to run.


Your question seems to reflect an understanding of the difference between beleiving something to be true - that the coach is refusing to let your son run because of his membership in a group - and proving it. If the coach stated that as his reason to another person, or expressed it in an e-mail or other written communication that you have, that would provide evidence to support your belief. I agree with Ms. McCall that most discrimination is not unlawful, but it's not possible to determine which side the coach's actions fall on without knowing more about the facts. Setting aside the litigation route, you may consoder going to the coach's supervisor, the school principal or superintendent to advocate for your son. This may be your best bet if the coach's actions are not illegal but run afoul of school policy and/or basic fairness.



I'm pleased to report that cooler heads prevailed, the boys will be running the meet, and a four year battle with an administration that refused to support these athletes in any way has been "schooled" by newcomers unfamiliar with the politics behind-the-scenes who took one look and said "This is ridiculous, of course we should do everything we can to give these kids opportunities". Wow. There is a cancer that runs through these schools where power, politics, personal vendettas, and fear of being found out that administrators are not the least bit qualified to do their jobs, runs rampant, unchecked, with very little recourse by the general, sane public. It's the kids who suffer. (Though, after "seriously" ruffling some feathers... not this time :) Thank you all for your advice.