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Law

Law Project/Paper Total:  Worth 150 points.

Background

You are in your seventh year as the athletic administrator (athletic director) at Sharp High School, the only high school in the Sharp School District. Prior to becoming the athletic administrator, you had taught science and coached boys basketball and tennis for fifteen years, the last five of these in the Sharp School District. You have a half-time secretary to assist you, and at times you make use of E.C.U. sports administration graduate students who elect to serve unpaid internships.

Sharp High School, which competes in Class 5A in most sports, fields fourteen sports teams. Boys participate in football, basketball, wrestling, golf, tennis, track and baseball, while girls compete in fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball, basketball, golf, tennis, track, and soccer.

Part I 50 points

Under your leadership, the Sharp School District has worked diligently to expand athletic opportunities for girls and to keep the boys and girls sports programs as comparable as possible. The Sharp School District equalizes as much as possible the size and salaries of coaching staffs, budgets, equipment and supplies, and travel and scheduling. As an example, the baseball and softball teams travel on equally modern activity buses, and the district provides drivers whenever possible so that the coaches do not have to drive their squads to away ballgames.

Sharp High School has had a softball program since 1977, when neighboring schools also began softball competition. The Sharp softball team generally wins more games than it loses each fall and spring, and it normally advances through district play into the regionals. Since 1977, Sharp has won one fast-pitch and one slow-pitch state 5A championship, finished second in fast-pitch once and been runner-up in slow-pitch two times. The most recent championship appearance was in the slow-pitch tournament four years ago. Attendance at softball games and membership in the Softball Boosters Club, both consisting predominantly of parents and other family members, are average for schools in the conference.

A group of parents of female athletes approaches you on February 2 with two concerns about the softball program. The parents’ first concern is one you are aware of, and you had hoped the Sharp School District would have adequate time to solve the problem on its own. The baseball and softball facilities had generally been comparable. The baseball facility, Williams Stadium, had originally been built in 1957 and had undergone expansion and numerous renovations. The softball program had used the Williams Stadium during the 1977-78 school year while the district constructed a softball facility, Prather Stadium. The district had made minor renovations in the softball facilities during the 1990s, and two years ago Sharp High School had upgraded Prather Stadium to bring it up to the standards of Williams Stadium. Both programs were now comparable in the quality, size and condition of the field, dugouts, locker rooms and weight training facilities. Both programs have their own practice fields, each adjacent to their varsity stadiums. But more on the softball practice field later.

Last summer substantial contributions from the Baseball Boosters Club had funded improvements in the baseball facilities at Williams Stadium, improvements which Prather Stadium lacked. Specifically, the Baseball Boosters Club had paid to add on approximately fifty additional, padded seats with generous foot room. Contributions had also improved the concession area, adding roofing for protection from rain and sun and upgrading equipment (stove, freezer, and popcorn maker). While the Sharp School District’s annual funding for the baseball and softball programs was equal, the Baseball Boosters Club was larger in membership, more active, and annually raised considerably more money through fund-raising projects and private contributions than the Softball Boosters Club.

The girls’ parents, armed with what they believe is a good understanding of Title IX, summarize the differences in the seating at the baseball and softball facilities. The parents then assert that the Sharp School District has an obligation, both legally and educationally, to fund improvements in seating and the concession area at Prather Stadium to make these comparable to Williams Stadium.

Directions for Part I (general directions are at the end)  50 points

Your task is to prepare a position paper for the Sharp School District Superintendent of Schools. Within that position paper:

(1) discuss the arguments on both sides of the issue of whether the Sharp School District legally must make additional renovations to Prather Stadium. To do this, you must review, summarize and explain the components of Title IX, including both statutory and regulatory provisions, what the courts have ruled, etc. Your discussion in this part should be in-depth, very detailed.

(2) make a highly educated prediction as to you think a federal district court would decide if this situation were litigated; and

(3) make a recommendation to the superintendent, possibly to go to the board of education, as to how you feel the Sharp School District should best proceed with this problem/challenge. You may choose either to make or refuse to make the renovations; but you are also encouraged to “think outside the box” and recommend some other legally sound option(s).

Part II

The parents raise another, this time unexpected, issue. They inform you that Bill Baker, the head softball coach for nine years, has told several of his players that he is planning to give up his coaching duties at the end of the school year to spend more time with his own school-aged children. Assuming that this information is accurate, you are, to say the least, miffed that you are learning of this from parents rather than Baker himself. The parents remind you that Sam Glover, Baker’s assistant, has served as assistant for four years, is certainly capable and head coaching material, and will in all likelihood apply for the head softball coaching position. The parents then claim that there is strong sentiment among the softball players and Softball Boosters Club to have a female softball coach next year, with strong preference that she be the head coach.

Still reeling from the news of Baker’s alleged resignation from coaching, you try to collect your thoughts. You do not express this thought to the parents, but you wonder if they accurately are reflecting the sentiment of the players and Booster Club or merely presenting their own wishes. You explain to the parents that you certainly do not object to the idea of one or even two female softball coaches next year. But you also express several concerns. One is that you have a capable and loyal assistant coach on staff, and that coach is male. You also doubt the legality of earmarking an employment vacancy, at least officially, for female applicants only. Moreover, you are concerned about restricting the size of the applicant pool, particularly since neither position pays more than the average rate for 5A head and assistant softball coaches. And while the softball program has been competitive and successful, it does not have such state championship tradition that it will likely attract as applicants the most successful softball coaches in the state.
Directions for Part II (general directions are at the end) 50 points

Obviously your first step here would be to confirm Baker’s alleged resignation. Assume that Baker is indeed going to give up his coaching duties and rather unprofessionally did not inform you first.  Confirm, after talking to Glover, that he indeed intends to apply for the head coaching position.
After discussing the situation with the Sharp School District Superintendent of Schools, schedule a meeting with the Softball Boosters Club. In preparing your comments, discuss at least the following:

(1) the federal laws against employment discrimination. Review the various applicable statutes, their provisions, etc. This explanation should be in-depth, very detailed. Explain to the Softball Boosters Club members in attendance what the laws prohibit, what they require, etc.

(2) the issue of having the current (and capable) assistant coach as an applicant; and

(3) the best interests of the softball program and the school as a whole.

End Part II by making a recommendation to the Sharp School District Superintendent of Schools, not the Softball Booster Club, as to how you think the Sharp School District should proceed in filling the vacancy. You may choose either to select Glover or hire a female from outside the district; but you are also encouraged to “think outside the box” and recommend some other legally sound option(s).

Part III 50 points

The softball program wasn’t finished causing major headaches for you and the Sharp School District this spring. Angie Benson, a junior, is the starting centerfielder for the second consecutive year on the Sharp High School varsity softball team. Counting two years in junior high, this is Benson’s fifth year of public school softball competition. On the day in question, February 13, Benson was practicing with the varsity softball team on the practice field (located on school property) adjacent to Prather Stadium, Sharp High School’s softball facility.

Construction of the practice field next to Prather Stadium had begun approximately 12 months ago, and the surface of the playing field was still quite rough. There was grass in intermittent spots, with many bare patches and numerous small rocks in the field. Because the practice baseball field adjacent to Williams Stadium is currently of no better quality, the baseball team normally practices on the varsity field itself.

The Sharp School District Grounds Department [Grounds] was responsible for getting the softball and practice fields ready for the team’s use. Through miscommunication, Grounds personnel thought that the softball team was practicing at Prather Stadium, when in reality it was using the practice field every afternoon. Therefore, Grounds personnel were spending most of their time each morning getting Prather Stadium (and Williams Stadium) facilities ready for upcoming interscholastic competition beginning on March 1. While they were preparing Prather Stadium bleachers and especially the field for softball games, little work was done on the practice field except for maintenance (emptying trash cans, mowing what grass there was, etc.).

Sam Glover was employed by the Sharp Board of Education as a science (primarily chemistry, physics) teacher and compensated to serve as the assistant coach of the girls’ softball team. On February 13, Coach Glover had the outfield players, including Benson, fielding “grounders” for practice. During the drill, Glover stood at the edge of the infield approximately 70 feet from the players and hit hard groundballs into the roughly surfaced outfield for the players to field.

After approximately fifteen minutes of this drill, during which time each outfielder had at least several opportunities to field grounders, Glover hit a ground ball toward Benson’s position. At the last moment, the ball hit either a clump of grass or a rock and took an erratic hop (a “bad hop”) and hit Benson in the face. The force of the ball knocked out two of Benson’s teeth and loosened several others. Benson’s injuries required a dentist’s care that afternoon, and she will have to undergo further dental treatment, possibly including surgery. Through her parents, Benson filed suit against Baker, Glover, the Sharp School District, the Sharp Board of Education, and yourself.

In her deposition, Benson stated that other players had been struck by balls taking erratic hops on the field. She testified that in the past other players had complained to Glover about the dangerousness of the practice field. The record also indicates that some of the parents of the players may have complained to the principal and to the head coach, Bill Baker, about the field. When asked if she considered the field to be unsafe before she was hurt, Benson responded “yes.” Additionally, she asserted that Glover had remarked that practicing grounders on the rough field gave the players an advantage over other teams during games, because others would not be as familiar with balls taking erratic hops.

Directions for Part III (general directions are at the end) Due to dropbox

The Sharp School District Superintendent of Schools asks you, as the district’s senior athletic administrator, to prepare a discussion of the legal factors underlying this situation. You will present your comments to the Board in executive session, since in Oklahoma threatened, pending and actual litigation constitute grounds for the board, if it chooses to, to go into executive session for discussion.

Specifically, the superintendent directs you to:

(1) Review the law on tort liability and athletics, by applying the traditional four-step negligence test, and its various factors, used in unintentional tort litigation.

(2) Apply tort law which you discussed in (1) to the current situation, including the four-step negligence test and its various factors. Be as specific as possible.

(3) Within your discussion, be certain to present the arguments on both sides of the issues, i.e., explain the arguments both Benson’s attorney and the Sharp School District attorney would make.

(4) Make a prediction to the Sharp School District Superintendent of Schools as to the outcome of this case if it proceeds to litigation.

(5) Make a personal recommendation to the superintendent and the board of education how you feel the Sharp School District should best proceed with this problem. You may choose either to fight the claim or settle outside of court; but you are also encouraged to “think outside the box” and recommend some other legally sound option(s).

General Directions for the Project

Each of the three parts of the project/paper is worth 50 points each (150 total pts.) apiece.  You are expected to respond to each of the three problem situations in as much detail as possible, citing court cases, statutory provisions, federal regulations, etc., whenever possible (use APA format if/when citing sources). The writing is expected to include in-depth and specific legal analysis, revealing a broad understanding of the concepts and provisions of sport law.

Suggested length per part is a 3-4 four double-spaced pages.

 

Format:
* use 12 pt. size font;
* use a font commonly used in academic writing, such as Times New Roman (other acceptable styles, not necessarily an exclusive list, include Arial Narrow, Bookman Old Style, and Courier);
* use normal margins (1.25” on the left and right sides, 1” on the top and bottom sides);
* use double spacing; and
* use the spell check tool in whatever word processing program you use. Points will be taken off for those typographical errors that a spell check program would have caught if you don’t use one.

* Use APA formatting

 

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