Eighth Circuit Sends Gender Discrimination in Sports Suit Back to Trial Court

By: Adria Lynn Silva on September 20, 2021


In Berndsen, et.al. v. North Dakota University System, No. 19-2517, the United States Court of appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed a trial court decision dismissing a Title IX lawsuit alleging the University of North Dakota violated Title IX by eliminating Women’s Hockey.

In a novel theory, the plaintiffs claimed the University’s actions in cutting Women’s Hockey violated Title IX’scontact sports clause“. The Eighth Circuit likened Title IX’s more common three part test to a catchall and admonished the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Right’s interpretation of its own implementing regulations as “a fine mess“.

The dissent expressed concerns because federal funding recipients like the University of North Dakota have relied on Title IX’s three part test to ensure gender equity compliance in athletics.