A teenage runner in Texas is accusing her high school of gender discrimination after she was reprimanded for wearing a sports bra in cross-country practice. The student, who has not been named except for the initials GH, said she was retaliated about how she couldn’t wear a sports bra – even though male athletes practiced shirtless.
The American Civil Liberties Union and its Texas chapter sent a letter to the Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD) on behalf of the student, expressing concern about her allegations against them.
In the letter, the ACLU says GH is the only black member of Spring Woods High School’s girls cross-country and track teams. In August 2021, the cross country coach told the girls they had to wear shirts to practice – even though they often ran in sports bras when it was too hot.
GH said she asked the coach and then the principal about the new policy, and both said girls could run in sports bras. But the next year, the coach again said the girls needed to run in shirts.
This time, they also said boys had to wear shirts, but GH claimed he saw a boy athlete take his shirt off during practice. She then took off her shirt, wearing only her sports bra because it was hot, and was “yelled at” by the coaches, according to the ACLU’s letter.
“When GH pointed out that the same coaches were allowing a boy to practice shirtless without a problem, they asked that student to wear a shirt,” the letter read.
The ACLU says the shirt policy was discussed with athletic trainers, but was never put into writing.
GH alleged that she was retaliated against after the incident. She says that her coach would walk away from her while talking to her. “If GH asked him to repeat an instruction, he would give him conflicting information,” the letter read.
He also claims he was denied an award for being the top runner on the cross-country team, which is important for college recruiting. “To be overlooked for this award, despite being great as an athlete and teammate, was devastating for GH and further confirmed that she was being mistreated by her coaches after she spoke out about the dress code and gender discrimination in the athletics program,” the letter read.
She also alleged that after wearing her sports bra in 2022, she and a teammate were kicked out of practice. And he alleges that while he was a distance runner, he was moved to the sprinting team during the winter track season and claims that the distance coaches “willfully ignored” him.
The ACLU says the sports bra incident isn’t the only alleged gender discrimination and that parents have noticed. They report that the boys’ team received more feedback and praise as well as more supervision during both practices and meets. “So, if a girl is injured or in bad condition after practice or meet, no adult is around to give her medical help,” the letter read.
Her family filed a Title IX complaint, prompting the district to investigate, but the ACLU claims the district “simply took its own employees’ statements at face value” and failed to address the family’s concerns.
In its letter, the ACLU warned the district that it was potentially violating the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides equal protection to all citizens, and Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities.
The ACLU said school officials said no to sports bras because it was “inappropriate to show skin” and that district employees did not want any “breasts, hips, or stomach exposed.” The agency said “this justification rests on the same harmful and archaic gender stereotypes that the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected as illegal.”
The ACLU requested a meeting with the school district to discuss the concerns
In a statement to CBS News, an SBISD spokesperson said the district “denies any discrimination and treats students equally and fairly.”
“We are aware of a situation involving a student at one of our high schools who is dissatisfied with SBISD practices, which apply to all athletes on that campus. SBISD is currently investigating the matter,” the statement said.
GH, who is currently a junior, said he never thought it would come to this stage.
“I believed that people who wanted to protect us would do so and do right by us. It may not benefit me to step up for my teammates, but it will benefit the next young woman of color who looks like me,” she said in a statement, to the ACLU. According to
The ACLU and its New York chapter also raised the issue with a school district in the state capital last year. Thirteen athletes on a high school track team, mostly Black and Latina, allege they were discriminated against after wearing sports bras. The ACLU said the girls were fired from the team after violating a “discriminatory dress code.”
The ACLU accused the City District of Albany of violating the Fourteenth Amendment, Title IX, as well as state anti-discrimination laws. A month later, Albany High School changed its dress code to allow student-athletes to wear sports bras during practice, the Albany Times-Union reported.