Suit Seeks to give International Students and United States’ Born Students Equal Footing Under Nevada Law
RENO, Nevada, January 22, 2020 — A complaint was filed January 16, 2020, in United States District Court against the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA). The lawsuit seeks an order declaring NAC 385B.738 unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution; and, a preliminary and permanent injunction be issued prohibiting the NIAA from continuing to discriminate against International Students. The Complaint specifically argues that the NIAA’s prohibition on international students from participating in Varsity sports discriminates against international students on the basis of alienage, country of origin, and nonimmigrant status. Each of these classifications have been recognized as protected classes by Federal Courts. In contrast, students born in the United States do not face discrimination and may participate in Varsity sports freely. Section 1983 of Chapter 42 United States Code prohibits any state from acting under the color of state law to deprive any person of “rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution.” The United States Constitution requires the equal protection of all people under the law—including International Students—and the NIAA preventing these students from participating denies them of that right and privilege secured by the Constitution.
Jason D. Guinasso, managing partner of Hutchison & Steffen’s Northern Nevada office, and Alex R. Velto, an associate attorney in the office, represent the plaintiffs, Excel Christian School and five students who attend the school. The students all lawfully reside in Nevada on F-1 International Student Visas. The students all wish to play sports for their school. But, none of them can because of the NIAA’s unreasonable and unconstitutional requirement. One student, a 12th grader, is completely barred from participating in any sports at all. According to NIAA rules, 12th graders may not play a sport other than Varsity. This, coupled with the NIAA’ s prohibition on international student playing in varsity sports, laves her without any option. The other students are all functionally ineligible to patriciate because Excel Christian School does not often field non-Varsity sports. With only 45 students, there are not enough student athletes to field teams in other divisions. The suit seeks to even the playing field and to force the NIAA to apply the law consistent with the United States’ Constitution’s Equal Protection mandate.
For International Students, sports mean much more than wins and who loses. The students play sports because it brings them into the campus community. They play sports because it brings them closer to their fellow students when language barrier otherwise keeps them apart. And after traveling thousands of miles to attend school in the United States, sports allow the students to integrate into western culture on equal footing with their classmates. Each day the NIAA prevents the students from participating in sports is another day they cannot get back. It’s another missed opportunity for personal achievement and belonging. It’s a slap in the face to the long history of athletes at the forefront of civil rights and integration.
The complaint and exhibits to the complaint can be made available upon request. Please email [email protected], or call (775) 853-8746.
Hutchison & Steffen is a solution-driven, client-centric law firm employing over 40 experienced attorneys and serving clients across Nevada from our offices in Las Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe. For more information, please visit hutchlegal.com.
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