Wanda Oates, who was awarded and then denied the head football coaching position at Ballou High School this year, has filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia, charging sex discrimination in employment. Oates is asking to be hired as the coach immediately and is seeking compensatory damages of $151,450.
"From the beginning, I felt that my appointment was revoked because I am a woman," Oates said yesterday at a news conference at the office of her attorneys, Amy Wind and Douglas Huron. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court and alleges that the Board of Education "unlawfully denied her the right to become head football coach . . . because of her sex."
"I considered taking legal action immediately, but my attorneys told me these type of cases don't get decided overnight," Oates said. "I didn't want to do anything to disrupt the Ballou football team during the 1985 season, so I decided to wait until the season ended."
The Knights, coached by Frank Young, tied for the Interhigh League West Division title. They lost in a playoff to H.D. Woodson and finished with a 7-5 record.
Oates, a physical education instructor at Ballou since 1965, has coached a number of boys and girls sports at the Southeast Washington school and has won a dozen championships. She has never coached football at any level. Oates had a highly successful girls basketball team and in 1980 was named the Interhigh League's first woman athletic director. She held that post until 1982.
Oates, who had retired from coaching, decided to apply for the football position when the notice of the vacancy was posted at the school last spring. Since no one else applied, Principal Helena Jones appointed Oates head coach.
But several days later, Andrew Jenkins, deputy superintendent of schools, overruled the decision and reappointed Young head coach. Young, a temporary physical education teacher, had received his notice of termination from the school system on June 30. In the D.C. system, temporary teachers are hired on a yearly basis and can be rehired the next year, based on a school's need.
Young said he was rehired as a teacher at Ballou on July 1 and assumed he also would resume his coaching duties. Young said at the time that he did not think he had to reapply for the coaching job and was not told by the principal that he would not be the coach in the fall of 1985.
"My only reaction to the situation is that I don't feel the system did anything wrong, and I certainly didn't do anything wrong," Jenkins said yesterday. "This was purely a matter of reassigning a coach to his position. In most cases, temporary teachers are rehired. As far as the suit goes, it will be handled by our legal department."
Oates said she is still very much interested in the football position.
"I want to coach," said Oates, now an assistant girls basketball coach at Ballou. "I realize football is a big challenge, but I thrive on challenges. I have coached both boys and girls and encountered no problems. As far as my being a woman is concerned, I think there are a number of successful male football coaches who have never played the game."
Her suit asks $1,450 in compensatory damages -- one season's pay for a football coach -- as well as $100,000 for damage to her career and $50,000 for pain, suffering and humiliation she suffered in losing the job.