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ACLU alleges 14th Amendment, Title IX violations after girl reprimanded for working out in sports bra as boys went shirtless

Image source: KHOU screenshot

The ACLU is backing a Texas high school student who says her school's policies punishing girls for working out in sports bras are discriminatory.

“I never thought this would come to this point,” the Spring Woods High School junior told KHOU.

“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," the girl also said.

G.H., a teen whose identity is being concealed over fears of possible retaliation, says school officials reprimanded her for working out in her sports bra as male students worked out shirtless in 100-degree heat.

"I saw a couple of the guys running without their shirts on — on campus and off campus — and they weren't being told anything. So, I took off my shirt, obviously, and I got in trouble for it," the teen told KHOU.

"It's a lot more than a sports bra because it really was only towards the women on the team than it was to the guys, especially because of my race. Since I am the only black cross-country and distance runner on the track teams," G.H. also said.

After G.H. complained about the policy, she says Spring Branch Independent School District passed her over for an award she believes she deserved as the cross-country team's top runner. The award for which she was passed over is "a critical credential for college applications and recruiting," according to ACLU of Texas.

G.H.'s father told KHOU the family went through the district's chain of command, but "not much was done" about the claims, which go back to 2021. Since then, the family sought the guidance of the ACLU.

The ACLU sent a letter to Spring Branch ISD Wednesday. The ACLU maintains that the district's dress code "reinforces invidious sex stereotypes" and may be a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX.

The Fourteenth Amendment provides for equal protection and rights of all United States citizens and says states may not make or enforce laws that deny that equal protection. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities.

G.H. is the only black athlete on the girls' cross-country and track teams, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas reported Thursday.

"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," Liza Davis, Skadden Fellow at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, told ACLU of Texas.

"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," Davis also said.

Watch KHOU's coverage below:

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