As reported by Ms. Magazine, in a groundbreaking ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Todd W. Robinson of the Southern District of California has declared that female student-athletes can now sue universities for monetary damages attendant to Title IX violations. This decision in a current and ongoing lawsuit marks a significant stride in the fight against sex discrimination in collegiate sports.

The class-action litigation accuses San Diego State University (SDSU) of unequal athletic financial aid, inferior treatment, and retaliation against female student-athletes. Judge Robinson not only allowed the suit to proceed, but also granted the students the right to seek monetary damages.

Title IX, enacted in 1972, was enacted to eliminate sex discrimination in education, but roughly 90% of U.S. colleges and universities still fail to comply. With the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) severely underfunded and no institution ever losing federal funding due to non-compliance, schools have faced minimal consequences for violating Title IX.

Previously, female athletes suing for sex discrimination primarily sought injunctive relief, via court orders directing a school to cease or reduce discriminatory practices. The SDSU case has now set a powerful new precedent, allowing female athletes to include demands for monetary damages in Title IX-grounded lawsuits.

This pivotal change provides athletes suffering discrimination the opportunity to seek to create powerful financial incentives for schools to end discriminatory practices or face costly lawsuits. In the SDSU case alone, female athletes could potentially win nearly $1 million per year in damages. Across 49 NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools, female athletes were illegally deprived an estimated $23.7 million in 2020-21 alone.

In the wake of this landmark shift, schools across the nation will have to reevaluate their practices and prioritize gender equity in athletics. The potential for significant damages not only empowers female student-athletes to fight for their rights, but also holds universities accountable for ensuring equal opportunities and treatment for all.

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