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Federal Lawsuit Alleges Race, Gender Discrimination Against School District Of Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The School District of Philadelphia is facing a federal class action suit alleging gender and race discrimination in girls' sports. The plaintiff claims the district's actions caused her to lose a scholarship to a Division I college.

"It made me feel like we weren't good enough to play lacrosse," said Nadirah McRae.

McRae is the face of a class action that claims the School District of Philadelphia discriminated against girls from low income African American high schools.

She began playing Lacrosse at Strawberry Mansion High, but the suit claims the district failed to provide support.

They need buses, they need support from the district, they need uniforms, they need cleats, they need all of those things, said McCrae's attorney Glenn Ellis.

He says the district violated federal law, when it provided Mansion and similar schools less resources to play non-traditional sports like field hockey and lacrosse than it gave to more affluent schools like Central.

Coach Jazmine Smith says she was fired by the district when she spoke out after Mansion girls could only play three other teams during the season, and none were teams from more affluent schools.

"It's very hard to get girls recruited from that status," said Smith.
The suit claims McRae got a scholarship at the University of Hartford and then lost it when the district failed to file proper paperwork.

"I felt, like my heart was being ripped out of my chest, McCrea said.

They had no choice but to sue.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages in excess of a $250,000 as well as remedies that would help girls of color participate in non-traditional sports.

In response to the suit School District issued the following statement.

"One of our core values as a school district is increasing opportunity in the classroom and on the playing field for all of our students regardless of race or gender. We work every day to ensure equity across the School District and that every child is given the opportunity to succeed. Last year we had more than 250 female student-athletes participating on 20 of our school teams in field hockey and girl's lacrosse, and we continue to promote all sports within the Philadelphia Public League."

As for McRae she's headed to Cheyney University, she won't be playing lacrosse but she's not giving up.

"I will be playing again," McCrea said.


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