Damien, St. Lucy’s, Oaks Christian and St. Bonaventure claim religious bias in schools’ federal lawsuit against CIF

Story with federal lawsuit complaint atached

“Nowhere in American jurisprudence is the entity that hears the appeal the same entity that already decided the matter from which the appeal has been taken. CIF is mandated under the education code to provide a neutral appeals process. They never did. It was not a legitimate appeals panel.” Los Angeles-based attorney Robert Prata, who represents Damien and St. Lucy’s.

cifBy Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
Four Southland parochial high schools are claiming religious bias and lack of due process in a federal lawsuit fighting a California Interscholastic Federation decision to pull their sports teams from mixed public-private school leagues and place them in new leagues made up of predominantly religious schools.

Lawyers representing Damien, Oaks Christian, St. Bonaventure and St. Lucy’s high schools filed federal lawsuits Thursday against the CIF State office, CIF-Southern Section and Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod in hopes of reversing a decision that would place the schools’ athletic teams in playoff divisions and leagues comprised of parochial schools beginning with the 2014-15 school year.” — Los Angeles-based attorney Robert Prata, who represents Damien and St. Lucy’s.

The move is an escalation by the schools after they lost their appeals hearing with a Southern Section executive committee in March. At that hearing, attorneys argued from a range points, including religious bias in the case of Damien and St. Lucy’s, to lack of due process for all four schools during their appeals.

Both Damien and St. Lucy’s are currently in the Sierra League and in the Mt. SAC Area for playoff groupings. Under the new placements, Damien, St. Lucy’s and Pomona Catholic would be moved to the parochial area for playoff and league placement. Pomona Catholic is not part of the lawsuit.

“They did an area placement and moved three schools from the Mt. SAC Area,” said Los Angeles-based attorney Robert Prata, who represents Damien and St. Lucy’s. “The only three schools they moved from the area are the Catholic schools.

“They contend they did it on the basis of competitive equity, but no other schools, no matter how good they are, have been moved.”

In recent years, the Southern Section has gotten a push to separate private and public schools and form leagues consisting solely of private schools. The Southern Section office declined to comment on the lawsuits per office policy during matters of litigation.

All four schools will begin the final year of the current league and playoff division cycle this fall. The Southern Section holds re-leaguing meetings every four years.

Although three separate lawsuits were filed on Thursday, an underlying theme in all of them was that the schools did not get proper due process during the appeals phase.

At the March appeals hearing before Southern Section executive committee, lawyers contend that the schools did not get a fair shake because the committee was not unbiased.

“Nowhere in American jurisprudence is the entity that hears the appeal the same entity that already decided the matter from which the appeal has been taken,” Prata said. “CIF is mandated under the education code to provide a neutral appeals process. They never did. It was not a legitimate appeals panel.”

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  • Dr Jekyll

    CIF should counter sue for their legal expenses.

    • Mr. Hyde

      Just like they did defending themselves when they were legally challenged when they denied an athletically motivated transfer? That’s right, they never counter-sued the parents, instead they gave in with the 30 day sit-out rule. Dream on troll.

  • Steve Ramirez

    The loser in any lawsuit always pays the legal fees.

    • Dr Jekyll

      You couldn’t be more wrong, loser only pays legal fees in contract disputes when it’s already specified in the contract or the Judge order the loser to do so. In small claims court the defendant will pay filing and service fees if only if the plaintiff wins. I think you must be confusing our civil court system with that of Great Britain where the loser always pays and as a result they have many less frivolous law suits filed.

      • Colt74

        The good doctor is right. Recoupment of legal fees need to be addressed in complaint. The general rule of thumb ( contract and statute being the most recognized non norm ) is that each party pays their own fees. It’s actually called the American Rule.

      • Steve Ramirez

        I stand corrected. Personally, I wish St. Lucy’s and Damien wouldn’t have done this. As Catholic schools, I wish they would have abided by the teaching of when wronged, simply turn the other cheek and move on. If most would do that, we’d have a munch better world.

        • SGV rag

          They have every right to sue, the only reason they were moved was because of their religious affiliation, with out due process. That, my turn the cheek friend, is religious discrimination. I hope they win.

          • Steve Ramirez

            I’m not arguing whether they have the right to sue — of course they do — but wondering if its the right thing to do. I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as u think. I view CIF-SS’ decision more based based on the foursome being private schools and CIF-SS felt it fare to place them in an association with like schools. CIF-SS could argue that the schools religious denomination is immaterial, but that the decision was based on the schools being private, whether their name is Damien or John Smith School, and wanted to level the playing field since privates don’t have district boundaries. It seems to be a fair argument from my view.

          • SpartanPride

            Level the playing field? With all the transfers to Upland / Charter Oak, Diamond Bar, etc, in the last 6 months, you still think there is not a level playing field? That argument is ridiculous. Yeah, Damien isn’t on a level playing field since they have dominated for so long, right? The private schools have just as much right to complete with the local talent as the public schools do. There are some great rivalries that will be no longer.
            What you are also not considering is the amount of travel these kids will have to do now to play games across the county and then have to fight traffic on the way home. When will they have time to get homework done, etc? This is completely bias against private institutions, who, by the way, still pay into the public school system. They should at least receive due process.

          • Dr Jekyll

            Cry me a river, “It’s too far, when will my kids study, everybody hates Catholics, we didn’t get our due process” If you don’t like it, send your kids to a Public School. I didn’t hear anybody crying about the travel time last year when Damien (of their own free will) scheduled Olu, Palm Desert, St. Bernard, Temescal Canyon, and Los Alamitos all in the month of September and October. Do the Damien kids not go to school in those months? Here’s an idea, instead of scheduling teams across the county and into different counties next year, how about scheduling your local rival teams during the preseason and then the regular season could be when you visit the teams further away. Amat has been dealing with these types of commute for decades and I have never heard anyone from Amat complain that their kids have no time to study because they’re always stuck in traffic. Stop with “it’s because of our religious denomination”, Oaks Christian got the boot just like Damien and their not Catholic. So what are we going to hear next, CIFSS is run by the Jews and Muslims? and they hate Christians? (lol) As far as due process that all the Damien people keep spouting about, would yall feel better if the MTSAC Association reconvened and formally voted Damien/St. Lucy’s out of the MTSAC? Because that’s the same due process that schools like Ayala got when they were moved out of the Sierra and into the Baseline, which they were none too happy about. Personally, I consider two failed appeals to be due process. Under the notion that these Private Schools did not receive due process would suggest that CIF would never be able to make a change or move any school from one league to another without going through the court system. That’s absolutely ridicules, that kind of ruling would open up the system to nonstop court actions by any and all schools come re-leaguing and re-divisioning time. Nowhere is it written that Private Schools must participate in CIF, feel free to break off and do your own thing if it’s just too much for you to handle.

          • SpartanPride

            Think the word I used was “private”. Never brought religion up, so get off your pulpit. Those preseason games you mentioned were for football only. There are several other sports that that this affects, especially at the lower levels that aren’t playing games at 7 PM on a Friday night.
            And nobody complained about what local league Damien is in. They have been playing in a higher league than what their enrollment would otherwise dictate for years. We welcome the competition and the rivalries.

          • Dr Jekyll

            Your right, it was SVG rag that said it was because of religious affiliation.

          • FredJ

            Jekyll, you miss the entire point, the travel isn’t necessarily football related, it’s about tennis, volleyball, soccer, basketball, water polo, etc and the travel involved for those programs, who play multiple games during a week and will now be asked to travel long distances.

            I would encourage everyone to read the complaint that is attached and the reasons for this lawsuit. Very compelling argument and I would agree with some that I wouldn’t necessarily call it religious bias, it’s more a private school bias that is the issue here.

          • Dr Jekyll

            So it’s ok for dumb Football Players to miss class, but god forbid a smart Tennis Player misses some class time. Again, if it doesn’t work for you, either go to a local Public School or don’t play those other sports. Fred, it surprises me that you of all people would defend this when you have been writing for years that Privates should all be in the same leagues and divisions with other Privates. The truth is that Damien doesn’t want to play other Privates who hold the same type of advantages that they hold over the Publics. Now stop you crying and MAN up.

          • FredJ

            I was explaining the position of the complaint, not taking a side. And what I’ve always argued is that in the PLAYOFFS, private’s and public’s should be separated. However, I’m not opposed to separating private and public’s in leagues either, but do believe if you do it, geographic proximity should be first consideration.

          • Dr Jekyll

            Fred, Damien’s argument is disingenuous, They are moving into a league which consists of 5 teams which means 4 leagues games for single play sports and 8 games for double play sports = 2 games on the road for single play sports and 4 games on the road for double play sports. Wow that sounds just terrible! If their sporting teams would simply schedule locals for non league play (which will represent 60% of their schedule) and let their league play (40% of their schedule) be games that are played father away then their total drive time for the year will end up being LESS then what they are experiencing now. Damien’s Basketball team traveled to Northern California last year for a tournament that was played on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday which means they were probably traveling on Wednesday. Where was the outrage about all the school time missed for those 3 ENTIRE days? Again, Damien needs to stop crying and MAN up and play with all the other Privates where they should have been placed years ago.

          • Steve Ramirez

            I believe it was during Christmas break.

          • Dr Jekyll

            The 13th, 14th, and 15th of December would be a rather early Xmas break. A 21 day Xmas break? Come on Steve, stay away from the Koolaid.

          • Steve Ramirez

            It’s possible. I didn’t check Damien’s calendar. But even if it wasn’t, a one-time, 2-day off is not as bad as once a week over a 12-week season. I personably believe with CIF-SS’ argument for the placement, but can see the other side as well. Also, it’s Christmas, not what u called it. Just think of what it means – Christ mass.

          • Dr Jekyll

            Come on Steve, put your thinking cap on. Once a week for 12 weeks? Think about it Steve. There are only 5 teams in this proposed league that Damien is trying to avoid. 5 TEAMS! That means a maximum of TWO road league games for football every year with Amat (12 miles away) being one of those road games every other year. For Basketball and almost all the other sports that means a maximum of 4 league road games every year. Really? Their preseason schedule in football was worse then that, and they willingly schedule those games themselves. This is all a big smoke screen by the Damien people thinking everyone out here is too stupid to do the math.

          • Mr. Hyde

            Hey Jekyll, your venom sounds angry, vindictive and with an agenda. Why should you care where they put these schools? Did your kid not make the cut with these schools? Pay back time? Just a guess.

          • Dr Jekyll

            Not a bit angry or vindictive, I just like to point out bullsh*t when I see it. The cry baby’s from Sparta just make it easy for me.

          • Mr. Hyde

            You have an agenda and it is transparent. Your anger has made your argument ineffective. No one likes an angry, petty blog troll.

          • Steve Ramirez

            Fair enuff. Like I said, I can see both arguments. I will say, I would think Damien would like the new league from a basketball perspective, because no one will touch them.

          • Dr Jekyll

            Are you kidding me Steve? you must not follow much High School Basketball. Both Sera and Loyola have great Basketball programs. Damien will be the 3rd wheel in this league in Basketball.

          • Steve Ramirez

            As been reported here, they’ll likely not be place in League A, with Serra, but League B, with Amat, Cantwell and St. Paul. Loyola is not part of the Camino Real/Del Rey alignment.
            I’m beginning to think Mr. Hyde s right. You might have a bias toward the privates. Your comments sound very hateful.

          • Tech Support

            If this goes through there is no way Damien ends up in the Camino Real. The Camino Real/ Del Rey Alignment doesn’t take geography into account at all at the current time and relies more on competitive balance. Damien, for basketball, will be a Del Rey team unless they completely change how to alliance works.

          • OuttaYourMindTrib

            I see the arguement about travel for sports like Tennis, Golf, Softball, Baseball, Basketball, Swim, etc… where they have multiple games during the week unlike Football that is once per week.

          • OuttaYourMindTrib

            Ayala DID get hosed. It is what it is and the chumps at CIF give schools like C-No a free pass to the playoffs for football. Guess the football team will have to load up on patsies in pre-season to have even a glimmer of hope to go .500 in the season. THAT is a travesty and I hope that Damien and the other privates take the schmucks at CIF to the woodshed.

          • AmatDad

            We play in the Serra League, which includes Notre Dame ( Sherman Oaks), Alemany (Mission Hills), Loyola (They play in Van Nuys), and Crespi( Encino). All of our away games are in the San Fernando valley and the traffic is brutal. But I love the level of competition and I believe the drive is worth it. My son maintained a 3.7 gpa while being a 2 sport athlete, Football and Baseball. It is all relative, if you want to compete at the highest level, some sacrifice is required. How many parents take their kids to camps, personal training, and other functions? I bet those functions are not around the corner, but you do it anyway. As for the rivalries, I can’t wait to play Damien once again. Although we have dominated them the last few times we played them, they are a proud school and the games are always awesome. Damien will eventually adapt to the new league and level of competition. I understand the hesitance t join this new league, but they will appreciate it down the road.

  • Jastrab

    With both federal and state courts clogged with cases and fewer resources how would this be adjudicated in a timely manner…most cases takes months if not more than a year to be heard. I am no lawyer, but I thought you would file a writ, but a lawsuit takes time which is not on their side with only 14 months until they are in the new leagues.

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  • Money

    Where is the competitive advantage for private? The rules for recruiting are the same for public and private anyone who says otherwise is just ignorant. In addition many public schools have open enrollment. Less families are willing to pay tuition. It’s all give and take There are good football programs that are both public and private it all comes down to the individual program. Damien program has been average for a long time and there is no reason to move them up other than undue influence by CIF.

  • javier


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