ACLU Warns Houston School District About Discriminatory Dress Code Enforcement and Mistreatment of Black Student Athlete

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
March 2, 2023 12:00 am

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HOUSTON — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas issued a warning today to the Spring Branch Independent School District on behalf of a high school student who faced mistreatment after objecting to a discriminatory gendered dress code and other gender inequities in the Spring Woods High athletics program.

G.H., a junior at Spring Woods High School and the only Black student-athlete on the girls’ cross-country and track teams, was mistreated and denied opportunities and rewards by school district employees after she objected to disparities in enforcement of the school’s dress codes for male and female athletes and to the unequal coaching and training of the girls’ cross-country team. School officials reprimanded G.H. for training in her sports bra in 100-degree heat while allowing male students to practice shirtless.

Following her complaints, Spring Branch ISD staff regarded G.H. dismissively and denied her an award for being the top runner on the girls’ cross-country team, a critical credential for college applications and recruiting. G.H. had the best performance record on the team and was the only student-athlete to have never missed a cross-country practice. While G.H. has bravely decided to continue running, the mistreatment she has experienced has diminished her love for the sport.

The letter sent on behalf of G.H. and her family warns school district officials that their existing policies and practices and their mistreatment of G.H. potentially put them in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

G.H., a junior at Spring Woods High School, says: “I never thought this would come to this point. I had faith that the people meant to protect us would do so and do right by us. Me stepping forward for my teammates may never benefit me, but it will benefit the next young woman of color that looks like me.”

Liza Davis, Skadden Fellow at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, says: “The discrimination G.H. faced is unfortunately all too common for Black girls in our country’s schools, and dress codes are often the excuse schools hide behind for that mistreatment. G.H. bravely challenged unfair discrimination and was roundly punished for it, hurting her academic and athletic career and potentially denying her future opportunities in sports. We refuse to stand by while Spring Branch ISD staff mistreat the cross-country team’s only Black athlete because she dared to speak up for herself and her fellow students.”

The full letter sent to Spring Branch ISD can be found here:

In June of 2022, the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union issued a similar letter to a school district in Albany, NY warning them about similar violations in their dress codes for student-athletes and retaliation against students who challenged them.

To learn more about the ACLU’s work against discriminatory school dress codes, click here:

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