Student Well-Being

Cheerleading Can’t Count as Sport for Title IX, Appeals Court Rules

By Bryan Toporek — August 08, 2012 1 min read

Colleges are still not allowed to count competitive cheerleading as a sport when trying to satisfy compliance standards of Title IX, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The decision is “broadly applicable,” according to Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, meaning that K-12 schools also can’t count competitive cheer squads as varsity sports for the purposes of Title IX, the federal law which prohibits gender-based discrimination in any federally financed educational opportunity.

“If cheerleading is underdeveloped at the college level, I can’t imagine it’ll be declared otherwise at the high school level,” Chaudhry said in an interview today. "... It’s a precedent-setting case.”

Back in 2009, Quinnipiac University decided to cut three sports teams, including women’s volleyball, while adding competitive cheerleading as a new varsity sport.

Not surprisingly, the university’s women’s volleyball team didn’t take kindly to that decision. Team members sued the school, arguing that the elimination of volleyball in favor of competitive cheerleading was gender-based discrimination in violation of Title IX.

A district court agreed with the squad, ruling in 2010 that Quinnpiac did violate Title IX by failing to provide equal athletic opportunities to females after eliminating the women’s volleyball team. In the decision, District Judge Stefan R. Underhill ruled that competitive cheerleading “does not qualify as a varsity sport for the purposes of Title IX.”

Fast-forward to Tuesday, and the appeals court upheld every part of the district court’s decision.

In the Aug. 7 decision in .

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.