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Friday, February 28, 2014

School's Hair-Length Policy Violates Title IX

In an interesting challenge under Title IX (the federal law that protects student athletes from discrimination), the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a policy at a middle school that required boy athletes to keep a "clean cut" hairstyle, but had no similar policy for girls.  Hayden v. Greensburg Community School Corporation (7th Cir. Feb. 24, 2014).

The case arose from a challenge by one male student athlete who did not want to cut his hair to play basketball.  His parents sued the school district on his behalf, alleging that the school's hair-length policy was unconstitutional and violated federal law.  

The Seventh Circuit first rejected the student's substantive due process claim that he had a fundamental, liberty right to wear his hair long, finding that he failed to show how the policy had no rational basis.  The Court did, however, accept the student's equal protection argument that the hair-length policy discriminated based on sex.  The Court determined that the policy only applied to boy athletes, not girls, and the school district failed to show any reason or basis for a "sex-specific grooming standard."  For that same reason, the Court also accepted the student's Title IX claim.  The case was remanded to the district court to decide the appropriate relief.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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