WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court told a lower court yesterday to reconsider whether Michigan high schools discriminated against female athletes by scheduling their basketball and volleyball seasons during nontraditional times of the year.
Justices set aside the lower court's ruling for the female athletes. That decision found a violation of the Constitution's equal protection clause and ordered the Michigan High School Athletic Association to revamp its scheduling so that girls' teams played during their typical sport seasons -- just like the boys' teams.
The Supreme Court asked the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, based in Cincinnati, to take a second look at the case in light of the high court's ruling last month in Rancho Palos Verdes v. Abrams, which bars certain lawsuits when a different portion of federal law provides a remedy.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association said the lawsuit should have been brought under the Title IX gender equity law, a question that the Sixth Circuit did not address.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed by Diane Madsen and Jay Roberts-Eveland, mothers of female athletes in the Grand Rapids area, in conjunction with the legal group Communities for Equity.
They challenged Michigan's practice of scheduling high school girls' basketball in the fall and volleyball in the winter, the opposite of when colleges play them. They said the timing is unfair because it limits the Michigan girls' exposure and hurts chances of winning college athletic scholarships.
Michigan is the only state that plays girls' volleyball in the winter, and one of two states to play girls basketball outside of winter. Hawaii girls play in the spring.
The Michigan athletic association countered that its unique scheduling boosts participation in girls' athletics and gives girls' teams greater exposure because they don't have to compete for attention with boys' games.