BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Coach fights for equality for girls team

In 2005, Ensley High School girls’ basketball coach Roderick Jackson drew national attention when he took his case charging the Birmingham School District with gender discrimination, specifically, violations of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. The high court was asked to rule whether or not a coach could sue on behalf of his team. In a 5-4 decision, the court said yes and sent the rest of the case back to the federal district court.

The case cleared another hurdle Oct. 6, when District Judge Karon Bowdre rejected an effort by the school district to dismiss the case. After six years, Coach Jackson will finally get chance to plead his case for equality before a jury.

Jackson was hired to teach in 1999 and agreed to coach the girls’ basketball team. He found continued unequal treatment of the team, including having to practice in an unheated 100-year-old gym, denial of gate and concession revenue and no funding from the school district. The boys’ team, by contrast, practiced in a new facility, kept all their gate and concession stand funds and received money from the school district.

“As in this case, it takes a coach to say, ‘I’m going to protest this for you even if you don’t understand that your rights are being violated,’” said Jackson. “Coaches are often in the position to stick up for girls. It’s unrealistic to expect 14- or 16-year-olds to fight discrimination on their own.”

A new school board has made some changes since the Supreme Court decision, but, says Coach Jackson, there is still a long way to go to protect Title IX. “I want to get my team on track. I want to help them to be the best they can be, not only on the court but in their everyday lives. I want to continue working to see that they are treated equally by this school district.”

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.: Fight to restore abortion rights tightens

In February, the state Legislature banned abortion except to save a woman’s life, period. A doctor performing an abortion in cases of rape or incest, for instance, faces five years in prison. Women’s rights groups have zeroed in to restore South Dakota women’s reproductive rights. They petitioned and an issue overturning the legislature’s action is on the Nov. 7 ballot.

“Life isn’t always black and white,” said Evelyn Bradley after listening to a discussion group in a neighbor’s home debating the abortion ban. “There are situations where it would be really difficult to have another child and I’d resent the law saying you have to have it. Should I be allowed to make that choice?”

Anti-women’s-rights forces have also mobilized. A recent poll commissioned by an anti-abortion group indicated that opposition to the ban had remained steady at 47 percent while support for it had grown from 39 percent in June to 44 percent in September, with 14 percent undecided. In a summer primary, four Republican state senators who opposed the ban lost their seats.

If voters uphold the abortion ban, Planned Parenthood, one of the organizations leading the women’s rights fight, says it will sue the state.

The outcome could impact Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Missouri and Rhode Island, which also have outlawing abortion on their agendas.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (