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CWBHOF Awards & Recognitions: Landmark Award 

Lea Dickson, Barbara Hall, and The Stratford Education Association
 VS The Stratford Board of Education, et al 
US District Court- Civil Action B-77-44

Case Summary: Landmark Connecticut Lawsuit: Title IX and Title VII

Since 1973, Lea Dickson, coach of girls’ basketball and softball at Frank Scott Bunnell High School and Barbara Hall, coach of girls’ basketball at Stratford High School in Stratford Connecticut were paid substantially less than the coaches of boys’ baseball and boys’ basketball for performing work of equal skill, effort and responsibility.

 

Lea Dickson, Barbara Hall and legal consultant, Susan Meredith from the CT Women’s Education and Legal Fund, (CWEALF) and the Stratford Education Association (SEA )were unsuccessful in their initial effort to renegotiate the coaches salaries with the Stratford Board of Education. (SBOE)

The SBOE responded by requesting legal opinions, hiring legal counsel, and further requesting documentation from the Athletic Director, to provide the criteria for the existing salaries. In addition, the board created a district-wide 12 member Title IX Committee consisting of School Administrators, SBOE members, coaches, and Stratford residents to explore and determine the SBOE requirements under Title IX. The committee was charged with assessing the current programs and providing policy recommendations to the board. Final recommendations of the committee included equitable funding for the girl’s and boys’ teams and that the SBOE should renegotiate the salary contract for coaches of girl’s sports. The SBOE was resistant to the advice given to them by their attorneys, the President of the Stratford Education Association (SEA), and the recommendations of the Title IX Committee, which was chaired by the Superintendent of Schools.

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Lea Dickson & Barbara Hall

In March 1975, the SBOE voted to equalize the salary for the coaches of girls and boys in only one sport, swimming. However, the SBOE was still unwilling to negotiate salaries or increased program funding for basketball or softball. Instead, the Board created a point system to determine salaries for the coaches of girls’ sports, resulting in the creation of two distinct salary systems; one for the coaches of girl’s sports and the other for coaches of boy’s sports (whose salaries were pre-negotiated as part of the teacher’s contract.) 

 

Upon the advice of their legal consultant, Susan Meredith, Lea Dickson, and Barbara Hall, coaches of basketball and softball filed complaints with the following agencies. These agencies had to follow procedures and strict timelines before giving permission to file a lawsuit.

  • U.S. Department of Labor, Equal Pay Laws 11/10/75

  • Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, which assisted with the Complaint to the CT Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities 11/10/75 

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 11/14/75 (Title VII, Title IX)

  • A complaint against The Stratford Education was withdrawn, and the SEA joined Dickson and Hall in the Civil Action

  • Nov. 1976, EEOC issued the Right to Sue

  • A lawsuit filed in March 1977

  • Plaintiffs’ First Interrogatories to Defendants, July 7, 1977

 

After years of underfunding and delays in providing equitable programs for the girls’ athletic program, Judge Jon O. Newman demanded that the Stratford Board of Education settle the case. Title IX requirements had given school districts until July 1978 (6 years) to comply with the law.

The Settlement - November 20, 1978

Back pay and legal fees: Lea Dickson $1,571.00 - Barbara Hall $1,234.00 - The CT Women’s Education and Legal Fund $1700.00

 

  • The Stratford Board of Education will refrain from all acts and practices of sex discrimination in the employment of coaches and affirmatively agreed to do the following:

  • To pay coaches of girls’ and boys’ sports on an equal basis without regard to the sex of the coach or to the sex of the students coached.

  • To use criteria for establishing salaries for coaches which do not result in unequal pay based on the sex of the coach or on the sex of the students coached.

  • To hire assistant coaches on the basis of need and to hire and /or assign assistant coaches for girls’ teams on the same basis as for boys’ teams.

  • To establish equal terms and conditions of employment for coaches of girls’ and boys’ sports, including but not limited to provision of uniforms, use of facilities, scheduling, use of equipment, allocation of monies and support services.

  • To hire and assign coaches to sports based on the individual coach’s qualifications and not on the coach’s sex or on the sex of the students to be coached.

 

The Impact

“Every woman coach and athlete knows that Title IX was systematically ignored, evaded, resisted, and thwarted for years, including here in Connecticut. The long history of gender inequality would not vanish simply because Congress said it should…

In 1974, two years after the passage of Title IX, they sued their school system in order to stop the daily insult of unequal treatment and opportunities a.k.a. gender discrimination that Title IX was meant to fix. In suing their school system, Lea Dickson and Barbara Hall, two young untenured teachers, risked everything.

Four years would pass before "United States District Court Civil Action B-77-41" was decided in their favor, the favor of every girl and woman in Connecticut. In 1978, six years after the passage of Title IX, U.S. District Court Civil action B-77-41 mandated, BY LAW, "equal terms and conditions of employment, regardless of the group ... "

Written by Hall of Famer, Bernice Nicolari

“Lea’s perseverance resulted in a landmark court case that established a legal mandate in Stratford’s Public Schools requiring that female athletes receive the same opportunities as male athletes.”

Bunnell High School Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, May 8, 1997

Honored for their “spirit and early dedication to equal pay for equal work and outstanding advocacy for girls.”

Maria Miller Steward Award for Legal Challenge presented to Lea Dickson and 
Barbara Hall, by the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund. May 8, 1993

“Dickson et al vs the Stratford Board of Education, one of the earliest cases of its kind in the country, sparked an upgrading of girls’ sports teams throughout the state.”

Todays’ Woman, The New Haven Register, May 3, 1993

“Barb was the catalyst for girl’s athletics at Straford High School, and a champion of equality for women in sports.”

Stratford High School Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, November 23, 2001

“When Title IX became law in 1972, most school systems through-out the country-including here in Connecticut - were not eager to abide by its provisions-and did not. What they were eager to do was protect the boys' programs that had flourished unchallenged for decades. Therefore, they stalled ... and stalled ... and stalled.

It is a mistake to believe that Title IX was a "magic wand" that brought about instant equality. That is NOT the way it happened, and women today need to know that.”

Bernice Nicolari, Featured Address 
by founder and Original Head Coach, 
50th Anniversary of the Shelton Gaelettes Basketball Team. 2012

“The Landmark Award (presented to Lea Dickson and Barbara Hall) recognizes those who, in a superlative fashion, have contributed to the enhancement of women’s basketball in Connecticut, through participation, service, support, or achievement. Lea and Barbara were presented the Landmark Award for their ‘courageous effort to bring equal opportunity to girls’ sports more than forty years ago.’

Excerpts from the presentation of the Landmark Award, by Dr. Ann V. Fariss,
Founder, Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame: CWBHOF Banquet, April 18, 2018

“The judgement kick started the implementation of Title IX in Connecticut and every other state in the Union where lawsuits were filed. But it began in Connecticut.”

Vermont Woman, Suzanne Gillis, Publisher, NewsBriefs, Summer 2018

“The lawsuit claimed an unequal system of remuneration and opportunity, resulting in the courts mandating, by law, “equal terms and conditions of employment for coaches of girls’ and boys’ sports, including but not limited to provision of uniforms, use of facilities, scheduling, use of equipment, allocation of monies and support services.”

Center Court, newsletter of the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, 
February 2019