Black girl runner crossing the red victory ribbon

Spring Branch ISD Advocacy – Dress Code Discrimination

Location: Texas
Last Update: November 2, 2023

What's at Stake

On March 1, 2023, WRP and the ACLU of Texas sent an advocacy letter to Spring Branch Independent School District (“District”) on behalf of G.H., a Spring Woods High School student athlete. The ACLU’s investigation had revealed that the District maintained a discriminatory, sex-specific dress code and gender-based inequities in the school’s athletics program, and that the student was mistreated after objecting to these policies and practices. The advocacy letter raised concerns that the District’s actions reinforced invidious sex stereotypes, treated girl athletes as lesser than boy athletes, and potentially violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The District’s policies and actions harm all students, regardless of gender, but have particularly egregious consequences for Black girls and other girls of color.

G.H. is a student at Spring Woods High School and the only Black student-athlete on the girls’ cross-country and track teams. G.H. was mistreated and denied training opportunities and athletic rewards after she objected to an unfair dress code policy that forbade girls from training in their sports bra while permitting boys to practice shirtless and to the inferior coaching and training that the girls’ cross-country team received as compared to the boys’ cross-country team. School officials also reprimanded G.H. for training in her sports bra in extreme heat while allowing boys to practice shirtless, then further reprimanded her for pointing out the unfair, sexist enforcement of the policy.

Following the ACLU and the ACLU of Texas’s advocacy letter, Spring Branch ISD hired new coaching staff to prioritize coaching all runners equally but failed to address its sex-specific dress code policies despite the ongoing harm to G.H. and other students. Therefore, on November 2, 2023, WRP and the ACLU of Texas filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, citing concerns of discrimination based on sex and retaliation in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Department of Education’s implementing regulations, 34 C.F.R. Part 106.

This matter builds on advocacy and litigation efforts addressing students’ rights and discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and policies in Texas, New York, North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi, and Connecticut.

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