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Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Indoor Sports Ban Challenged In San Mateo Co. High School Girl’s Lawsuit

On February 19th, California Governor Gavin Newsom received high praise for lifting the ban on youth sports, and that news was highlighted here at OaklandNewsNow.com. However, the liberation was to youth sports played outdoors, and not indoors.

The new guidance released last Friday said all outdoor sports can resume in counties where COVID-19 case rates are at or below 14 people per 100,000.

Now, a San Mateo County high school volleyball player has filed a legal challenge last Saturday February 28th 2021, and to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s prohibition on indoor sports saying it denies equal protection because there is no medical evidence that competing in indoor team sports is safe for college and professional athletes but not high school athletes. This lawsuit emphasizes the disparate impact an indoor team sport ban has on women athletes.

“We are standing up for all girls who deserve the same rights as professional and college volleyball players who have been allowed to safely play during the pandemic,” said Stella Buch (pronounced: “book”), 14, a student at Menlo School. “It is unconstitutional and discriminatory of Gov. Newsom to shut out girls from sports.”

Volleyball is one of the most popular girls’ sports in California–with 60,000 plus players–so this legal challenge will have a big impact statewide, Buch added.

The temporary restraining order was filed Friday, Feb. 26, against the state by the law firm of Wingert Grebing Brubaker & Juskie in San Mateo County’s Redwood City Superior Court on behalf of Ms. Buch, her mother Heather Buch, and indoor sports. The firm just won a groundbreaking decision last week removing all restrictions on indoor and outdoor sports in San Diego.

“Right now in order for girls to keep playing volleyball they are having to skirt the rules by playing secretly or traveling out of state. We don’t want to break the rules, we want to fix the rules,” said Heather Buch, Stella’s mother and respected volleyball coach and former player. She said it is important that a decision comes quickly otherwise it will be another year before girls can play again.

“It is wrong and exclusionary for Gov. Newsom to allow pro and college volleyball/indoor sports, but discriminate against youth and high school sports,” Ms. Buch said. She pointed to significant evidence from multiple sports associations, experts and colleges that it is safe to play all indoor sports.

This past week the law firm Wingert Grebing Brubaker & Juskie won a temporary restraining order against Gov. Newsom’s action over the state’s limits on youth sports. The judge ruled all indoor and outdoor sports can be played immediately in San Diego County, including women’s volleyball, basketball, wrestling and other sports.

“We plan to spread this victory throughout California,” said Stephen C. Grebing of Wingert Grebing Brubaker & Juskie. He called the win “an important victory that goes above and beyond Governor Newsom’s announcement allowing only outdoor youth sports.” He said it will be difficult for Gov. Newsom to appeal because the state presented no medical evidence of COVID-19 dangers to youth–and in an appeal only the original facts can be disputed.

“In addition to San Mateo County, we are filing lawsuits in Santa Clara, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara, Riverside, San Bernardino, and other counties this week and next to ensure all youths, girls and boys, have the same right to play sports–indoor and outdoor–as professional athletes do,” Grebing added.

Let Them Play CA, a group of more than 60,000 kids, parents and coaches pushing for the reopening of sports in California, praised the statewide effort to allow girls and indoor sports.

“The San Diego victory paves the way for all sports for all kids in California,” said Brad Hensley, co-founder of Let Them Play CA. “We are thankful for the Governor’s decision Friday, but this new ruling overrides his tier system and will bring both indoor and outdoor sports to kids in San Mateo and throughout the state.”

The San Diego County victory means youths can immediately “participate in high school or youth sports as long as the follow the same or similar COVID-19 protocols imposed for competition in professional and/or collegiate sports within the County,” according to the TRO.

The judge agreed with the students’ arguments that “there is no medical evidence that competing in team sports is safe for college and/or professional athletes but not high school athletes.”

Judge Earl Maas III wrote in his San Diego decision “the persuasive evidence is provided by Dr. Gandhi, MD from Harvard, currently Professor of Medicine at UCSF, and her writings on immunology, AIDS and COVID. She states to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the rate of virus transmission in high school sports is equal to or less than that observed in Major League Baseball and National Football League studies.”

The San Diego lawsuit was filed by students Nicholas Gardinera, a senior at Scripps Ranch High School, and Cameron Woolsey, a senior at Mission Hills High School, in San Diego. The suit said that 48 other states have allowed high school sports to resume and “plaintiffs know of no evidence that allowing high school sports has led to an increase in COVID-19 transmission or hospitalization in any of those states.”

“Governor Newsom favored professional sports and colleges and allowed them to play sports, but denied the same right to youths who have been irreparably harmed through his unequal application of the law,” Hensley said. “It’s important that California’s kids will now be treated with the same equality that was afforded to college and professional players. It’s only right.”

The latest news is that talks of a potential settlement have started.

Stay tuned.

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