HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The Huntsville City Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to approve a settlement agreement in a Title IX lawsuit Thursday.
The lawsuit, filed in 2018, alleged the district willingly and intentionally deprived female athletes of their rights by providing better opportunities to the boys' teams. It was filed by a parent, Martella Tyler, on behalf of her two daughters. Both daughters play softball, the lawsuit stated, and the second daughter also played several other sports.
The complaint stated the district discriminated against female athletes by providing better funding, equipment, facilities, and opportunities to boys teams over girls teams. It said the girls were denied equal treatment. It also cited multiple examples including better pitching machines, infield tarps, locker rooms, dugout improvements, and funding for the baseball team than the softball team at Lee High School.
The lawsuit cited an imbalance of treatment between the male and female athletics programs. It asked for an injunction to stop that alleged discrimination, along with a budget and plan to correct the alleged violations.
In following court filings, the district had answered by denying the complaints, adding that the board acts in good faith and has not intentionally denied students their rights. It denied that any student had been harmed.
Recent filings in the case showed that both parties were working together toward a resolution, and the district was planning improvements to its athletics facilities. Some issues concerning upgrades appeared to delay a settlement until this evening.
The Settlement Agreement
The Huntsville City Schools legal team provided WHNT News 19 with this copy of the settlement agreement in which the board agrees to make necessary changes to Lee High School's athletics facilities.
The agreement states the board will support Lee High School girls' and boys' sports equitably, funding them on a gender-neutral basis, "regardless of the source of funding, whether school funds, contributions from boosters, or other third-party donations." The board guaranteed that the Lee High School softball program will be treated in a equitable manner to the baseball team, including travel, meals, lodging, uniforms, equipment, and use of weight rooms. The Lee High School softball program will also receive a number of facility upgrades and renovations.
The board also agreed to pay $50,525.75 to a law firm for attorney's fees and costs.
Huntsville City Schools settled a similar lawsuit in 2017 regarding Huntsville High School's athletics.
The district is still working itself out of a multi-million dollar accounting error discovered last year.
And Thursday, it also approved two other lawsuit settlements.
One is over alleged unlawful termination. The system will pay the plaintiff and attorney almost $10,000 without admitting guilt. The settlement said the district was doing this to avoid further litigation and fees.
But it also agreed to accept $42,000 in unpaid utility reimbursement from the owner of the Westlawn property as the resolution of a separate lawsuit.