California high school football team forfeits vs. team with 2 girls

Two months after settling a Title IX lawsuit related to forfeiting a game against a football team that rostered a girl, Valley Christian Academy (Santa Maria, Calif.) has forfeited another game for the same reason.

The Lions chose to forfeit the Sept. 30 game against Coast Union (Cambria, Calif.), which has two girls on the team. This is the second year in a row Valley Christian has done so against Coast Union and the fourth consecutive year with a forfeit for this reason, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The 2021 lawsuit, brought forth on behalf of a Cuyama Valley (Calif.) High School girl football player, was settled for a cash amount of $20,000, according to Noozhawk. But Valley Christian was allowed to deny all wrongdoing. Joel Mikkelson, the Valley Christian Academy Superintendent and lead pastor at First Baptist Church, maintains the stance that Title IX does not apply to this situation.

“Title IX is very clear that contact sports are exempt from Title IX,” Mikkelson said to the Los Angeles Times. “That’s the language — contact sports are exempt from Title IX. It is an unfortunate tragedy that that is not understood by most people.”

Section 106.41 (b) of Title IX states in part:

(a) General. No person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, be treated differently from another person or otherwise be discriminated against in any interscholastic, intercollegiate, club or intramural athletics offered by a recipient, and no recipient shall provide any such athletics separately on such basis.

(b) Separate teams. Notwithstanding the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section, a recipient may operate or sponsor separate teams for members of each sex where selection for such teams is based upon competitive skill or the activity involved is a contact sport. However, where a recipient operates or sponsors a team in a particular sport for members of one sex but operates or sponsors no such team for members of the other sex, and athletic opportunities for members of that sex have previously been limited, members of the excluded sex must be allowed to try-out for the team offered unless the sport involved is a contact sport. For the purposes of this part, contact sports include boxing, wrestling, rugby, ice hockey, football, basketball and other sports the purpose or major activity of which involves bodily contact.

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The judge dismissed part of the complaint but denied the request to dismiss claims related to Title IX or the Education Code, according to Noozhawk.

Mikkelson told the Times that Valley Christian boys contact sports do not participate in games against teams with girl opponents, but boys teams in non-contact sports do.

He explained to the Times, “this is not about arrogance, this is not about pride, this is not about unfairness.”

In all fairness, we want to treat women with gentleness and respect. And so we want our young men to apply that to the football field,” Mikkelson said. “And we believe football is a violent game, and accordingly, we want them to operate within the rules of football and hit people well. And we don’t want them to do that to a young lady.”

The lawsuit stated that Valley Christian and Cuyama Valley scrimmaged and Valley Christian was unaware there was a girl on the team until she took off her helmet. Two days later, the academy changed its season schedule to avoid teams with a girl player.

The lawsuit accused the school of taking away “her athletic opportunities,” according to Noozhawk.

“This action arises out of the abhorrent, intentional, and gross discrimination against plaintiff, a female student athlete enrolled at Cuyama Valley High School (Cuyama Valley), by defendants’ antiquated, misogynistic ideals and policies through which defendants sought to minimize plaintiff’s athletic ability and deprive her of athletic opportunities strictly due to her gender.”

As for Coast Union, head coach Andrew Crosby told the San Luis Obispo Tribune last year after Valley Christian forfeited and said that he and his team do not see it as “fair.”

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“I am upset with VCA’s decision, especially because (Emily Reed and Andrea Aguilar) are being singled out for their gender. It’s not fair and I hope that because of the support of their families, the team, and community, that they can have confidence that we support them.”

Coast Union’s record improved to 2-3, while Valley Christian fell to 4-1 (now 5-1 after a Thursday game).

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