In March 2016, St. Cloud State University announced plans to cut six teams from its athletic program, which is how Donald Chance Mark Jr., a shareholder at Fafinski Mark & Johnson, found himself sitting at a conference table with 10 women from the university’s tennis and Nordic ski teams.
“Their sports were eliminated with no warning and no opportunity to respond, and when we did some research, we realized this was a Title IX violation, and it wasn’t the only one,” he said. After more extensive investigation, the FMJ legal team concluded that many institutions were violating Title IX laws, but with little litigation as a result.
“Little by little, cases are cropping up, but our case is likely the most significant in Minnesota, and possibly the upper Midwest,” said Mark. “Hopefully, this will provide guidance for others to follow, so that there can be true equal opportunity as outlined by the Title IX law.”
In 2019, Chief Judge John Tunheim issued a decision in Portz et. al. v. St. Cloud State University et. al. that found the university was in violation of the law, and had been out of compliance for years by failing to provide equal opportunities for female athletes, even as it had increased support to men’s sports teams.
“We think this is a very significant case and adds to the growing body of law around Title IX,” said Mark. “We were ecstatic with the results and with Judge Tunheim’s strong opinion and recognition about what was going on. It’s a decision that will reverberate throughout the country.”
Donald Chance Mark Jr. and Sharon Van Dyck are Circle of Excellence Attorneys of the Year.
Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2019 here.
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