Curtis Hollinger, a Lafayette attorney and father of a Lafayette High basketball player, filed suit in state district court late Friday against the Lafayette Parish School Board over what he says is athletic discrimination. Specifically, Hollinger’s suit accuses the board of a kind of intellectual reverse discrimination against basketball players (and other sports athletes) because the 1.5 grade point average required to participate in team sports is .5 lower than the 2.0 GPA required for cheerleaders.
“Specifically, the school board has a policy on its books that cheerleaders have to maintain a 2.0 and people who engage in traditional sports such as basketball and track, they have to have a 1.5,” Hollinger tells the INDsider. “My basic argument is that cheerleaders and those who engage in those other sports are both athletes. Cheerleaders are definitely athletes just as ball players are athletes. So, to treat one athlete different than another athlete in the requirements for academic performance, to me, is unequal treatment and against the Constitution.”
According to the suit, the LPSS’ GPA requirement “perpetuates the negative stigma and stereotype that high school basketball players are stupid, inherently inferior intellectually and inherently incapable of meeting higher academic standards ...” Hollinger is quick to point out that the suit is not a class-action suit on behalf of all student athletes in Lafayette public schools. Rather, it is on behalf of his son. But he maintains that the lower academic standard for athletes creates an environment in which all student athletes seek to only do the minimum amount of work to satisfy the GPA, rather than strive for academic success.
Hollinger hopes the suit achieves a goal of forcing the LPSB to raise its GPA requirement for athletes and to make the requirement uniform. The former all-American tennis player at UL tried to entice schools to voluntarily raise their GPA requirement for athletes from 1.5 to 2.5 last November with an open letter to the school system offering $1,500 to any school that raised its standards. He says he got no response from the school system or any schools. “I’m hoping that the lawsuit itself can serve as a model that would encourage the school board to change its overall policy for all athletes,” he says, “so the athletes themselves would no longer have this stigma associated with them as being intellectually inferior.”
So what’s next? “It’s war, that’s what’s next,” Hollinger says. “I anticipate them coming at me with every theory they possibly can and every resource they can to defeat the lawsuit.”
An e-mail seeking a response from the Lafayette Parish School System went unanswered Monday; the LPSS, however, is closed due to the Martin Luther King federal holiday.