Judge: Line Mtn. girl can wrestle while suit is being settled
WILLIAMSPORT - A federal judge granted an order Friday that allows Line Mountain seventh-grade student Audrianna Beattie to participate in the district's wrestling program and temporarily prevents the district from taking any action that would interfere in her participation.
Meanwhile, a hearing for preliminary injunction is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, in Courtroom 3 at the Herman T. Schneebeli Federal Building and United States Courthouse, 240 W. Third St., Williamsport, in front of U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann.
Brian and Angie Beattie, parents of Audrianna Beattie, filed the lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on behalf of their daughter who was not allowed on the wrestling program because it's gender-specific.
In court documents, Brann was responding to a motion of temporary relief made by the Beattie's legal representation: Philadelphia attorneys Terry L. Fromson, of Women's Law Project, and Abbe F. Fletman, of Flaster/Greenberg PC.
He said Audrianna would suffer irreparable harm if she was denied participation on the team. Practices for the 2013-14 wrestling season start this month and competitions start in early December. Students must sign up by Tuesday and wrestling physicals are scheduled at 12:30 p.m. Friday.
"Were the court to erroneously grant the temporary restraining order, the defendants (Line Mountain School District) would not suffer greater harm than plaintiffs (the Beattie family)," Brann said.
The Beatties say the school board is discriminating against their daughter on the basis of sex in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Rights Amendment of the state constitution.
By denying the girl participation, they said she would have missed opportunities to practice and compete, which would cause her to fall behind in her development as a wrestler and prevent her from being able to compete in the future.
District Superintendent Dave Campbell could not be reached Saturday; however, on Wednesday, he directed all questions on the matter to attorney Chris Conrad, of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin in Camp Hill.
Conrad did not respond to requests for comment this week.
The Beatties are asking a federal judge to declare the actions of the district violate state and federal laws and to force Line Mountain to allow Audrianna the opportunity to participate and compete in the wrestling program on the same basis, benefits and treatment as the male students.
They are also asking the judge to stop the district from potentially retaliating against their daughter.
Additionally, they want the judge to stop the district from discriminating on the basis of sex in athletic opportunities for all female students.
The district has 21 days to respond from date the original suit was filed.
Having started wrestling in third grade, Audrianna was a member of the wrestling club in LeMars, Iowa, in fourth and fifth grades where she practiced with boys and girls and competed against boys in approximately four tournaments per year, taking seconds, thirds and fourths in those tournaments.
After the Beattie family moved to Herndon in 2012, Audrianna wrestled on the youth team that was open to elementary students through sixth grade where she practiced and participated with boys.
Earlier this year, the district told the Beatties that she would not be allowed on the junior high level wrestling team because there is only a boys team.
The district policy reads:
"The purpose of this policy is to address the following:
1. The physiological differences between male and female athletes.
2. The practice of the Line Mountain School District of maintaining interscholastic athletic teams for both males and females in all sports other than contact sports.
"Due to the fact that the physical size, speed and power of male athletes could create a competitive disadvantage and a hazard to the health and safety of female students, the Line Mountain School District prohibits male participation on female varsity, junior varsity and junior high interscholastic athletic teams, except when any such team is specifically designated a co-ed team by the administration, with the formal approval of the School Board."