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Monday, February 24, 2014

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today, a reversal re hair length

In Patrick Hayden v. Greensburg Community School Corp. (SD Ind., Young), a 39-page, 2-1 opinion, Judge Rovner writes:

On behalf of their son, A.H., Patrick and Melissa Hayden challenge a policy which requires boys playing interscholastic basketball at the public high school in Greensburg, Indiana, to keep their hair cut short. The Haydens make two principal arguments: (1) the hair-length policy arbitrarily intrudes upon their son’s liberty interest in choosing his own hair length, and thus violates his right to substantive due process, and (2) because the policy applies only to boys and not girls wishing to play basketball, the policy constitutes sex discrimination. The district court rejected both claims and granted judgment to the defendants. Hayden ex rel. A.H. v. Greensburg Cmty. Sch. Corp., 2013 WL 1001947 (S.D. Ind. Mar. 13, 2013). We reverse in part. Because the hair-length policy on its face treats boys and girls differently, and because the record tells us nothing about any comparable grooming standards applied to girls playing basketball, the evidence entitles the Haydens to judgment on their sex discrimination claims. * * *

For the reasons discussed in this opinion, the district court’s judgment in favor of the defendants on the Haydens’ substantive due process claim is affirmed. However, the judgment in favor of the defendants on the equal protection and Title IX claims is reversed. On the record presented to us, the Haydens have established that the hair-length policy applicable to boys wishing to play basketball impermissibly discriminates based on sex. The case is remanded to the district court to determine appropriate relief on these claims. The parties shall bear their own costs of appeal. AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, and REMANDED.

Judge Manion's dissent begins on page 28:
Having ruled against A.H.’s primary argument, the court decides this case on equal protection arguments that A.H. did not make, rooted in authority he did not cite. However, the court does not actually tell us why the policies here are not comparable under the correct standard. Rather, the court decides that the school loses by default because the record is missing some of the grooming provisions that are applicable to female athletes. But there is enough in the record to compare the grooming policies applicable to male and female athletes, and if anything that is missing were included, it would only make the burden of the grooming policy applicable to male athletes even more clearly balanced out by the burden on female athletes. Although I agree with the court’s general summary of the law of equal protection, I write separately because the record does not establish any violation of the Equal Protection clause or Title IX.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 24, 2014 04:36 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions