Synopsis of Rule of Law. A private organization can be considered a state actor if there is sufficient entwinement between the state and the organization, such as here where the majority of members are public schools, and the leadership and governing body is made up of public school officials acting within their official capacity.
Brentwood sued the academy when, in 1997, the board of control found that Brentwood violated a rule prohibiting “undue influence” in recruiting athletes, and placed the athletic program on probation for four years, making them ineligible to compete in playoffs for two years, and imposed a $3000 fine. At the time the penalties were imposed all voting members were public school administrators.
Issue. Does a statewide athletic association, incorporated to regulate competition among public and private secondary schools, engage in state action?
Held. Yes. The association should be treated as state activity because of the entwinement of state school officials in the structure of the association.
Under the Association's bylaws, each member school is represented by its principal or a faculty member, who has a vote in selecting members of the governing legislative council and board of control from eligible principals, assistant principals, and superintendents.View Full Point of Law
Discussion. The Constitution usually applies to only state actors, but there are certain instances where private organizations must be treated as state actors. State action may be found if, and only if, there is such a “close nexus between the State and the challenged action” that seemingly private behavior “may be fairly treated as that of the State itself.” The court does not look to one factor, but a totality of the circumstances when determining if there is such a close nexus.
Here, since 84% of the membership is made up of public school, which are not private actors, and each school is required to send an administrator of it’s school, and the governing body is made up of those individuals acting within their official capacity as state employees, “there is no recognizable Association…without the public school officials”. In addition, these school officials not only make up membership, but also control the association, making the separation between the association and the public schools” indistinguishable”.