Sweetwater High School CrossFit and the Legal Battle Over Their Rig

September 21, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Jenny Schafran
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Jenny Schafran started CrossFit in 2013, and after getting her Level 1 certification, she knew she wanted to bring her experience and knowledge to young people. 

A teacher in the Sweetwater Union High School District in the San Diego, CA, area, Schafran began talks with the administration in 2021 to bring a CrossFit program to Sweetwater High School.

Her goal was to make fitness accessible to a population where one in three kids was overweight and more than 80% of students received subsidized lunches. After tons of meetings, emails, and paperwork, Schafran’s affiliate, United CrossFit, was ready to go–she even managed to get through all the paperwork to set it up as a non-profit in March 2022.

Schrafran was ecstatic to get the ball rolling in 2021 the day the rig–which she purchased from another local CrossFit gym–was delivered.

  • “I talked to the principal and the assistant principal in charge of facilities and let them know the rig was here and asked them if we should start to set it up. I was told to have the custodial staff help us, and we put it together in about five hours.”

Sweetwater is a year-round school, and the CrossFit space was set up in the weight room, which was used for all PE classes plus the sports teams. This was the main impetus behind being able to buy the rig.

  • “We were able to use the after-school grants for the facility because the rig would be accessible to everyone. Half of it was paid for with that grant, and the other half was paid for with our Title One ASB funds. The reason we did it that way was because if after-school grants paid for the whole thing, then only after-school activities would have been able to utilize it.”
  • “We got it because this was going to be such a big addition to our weight room. The principal wanted to make sure every student could utilize it.” 

Schafran and the school had been using the rig for approximately a month when, all of a sudden, someone from the district office contacted her, informing her that they hadn’t filed the correct paperwork to have a rig set up in the gym. They had to caution tape the rig off until an engineer from the district could come out and check the rig to make sure it was structurally sound.

Schafran was confused.

She knew this error didn’t fall on her, but she also knew she had an incredibly adept administration team that had been working with her on this project. She found it hard to believe that they would have missed this. 

Either way, Schafran agreed to the ask.

  • “I didn’t think it would take that long,” she said. 
  • “I thought it was going to be a week or two-week process to get somebody out there. But months went by, and I was asking the administration what was happening. They were unsure and didn’t have a timeline.”

Things went from bad to worse when, at the same time, Schafran’s school district told her she could not call her program CrossFit.

She replied defiantly.

  • “I absolutely can. Here’s the paperwork. Let me show you. They told me no; it’s a trademarked name; you’re not allowed to call it that word.”

As she continued to fight this battle, the rig remained roped off and unusable. So much time had passed that the leadership in the school and district changed. 

Fast forward to July of 2023–two years after this rig has been installed. Schafran was on campus getting her classroom ready and noticed the football team training with the rig. She was ecstatic until, on the first day of classes, it was roped off. Again.

She inquired again with the new school leadership and was told the same story: an engineer needed to come out and sign off on the installation. Fed up, Schafran took it into her own hands, emailing who she thought was the systems engineer for the building and cc’ing the District Superintendent.

Schafran emailed the IT systems engineer in error, but the man was kind and happened to be a CrossFitter and offered to try to get the email to the right person.

Then, it all came tumbling down.

  • “Our Superintendent responded to the email I had sent to the IT engineer. Several people were CC’d on the email – the district’s lawyer, the facilities manager, and the after-school director at the district office.”
  • “The superintendent wrote, ‘It seems like this teacher has confused everyone with her email sent to the wrong person. I demand that this stop immediately, and I call for a cease and desist on this equipment, and I will have it removed immediately.’”

Schafran was shocked.

A month later, a team came in after hours on a Saturday and removed the rig. The after-school director and none of the assistant principals were aware.

  • “The kids were so upset when they walked in on Monday for our CrossFit class and saw that the rig was gone. They were deflated, especially my female athletes, when they saw it because they don’t want to use the big metal racks with the iron weights that sit around the weight room.”
  • This is a Title IX violation, it is a Title I funding violation, and it is a violation of the After School Grant use. We have breached our contract and are not using what we paid for with the grant money, and that is against the law–it was a California education grant from the state of California.” 

Schrafran responded to the Superintendent’s scathing email but got no response.

  • “I wrote how It’s so disappointing that for over two years, we’ve been waiting for someone to come out and just simply check the rig. But in three weeks, because someone gets offended, it only takes three weeks to tear it down.”

The legal battle between Schafran and the Superintendent continues; she even spoke at a school board meeting on September 11. Schrafran continues to fight because it isn’t about her; it’s about the students.

  • I want the rig back, I want our kids to be using the rig, and I want our program to flourish. I can’t tell you how empowered the girls feel–my most dedicated members are the female athletes. They’re the ones who show up more often than the boys for our CrossFit or after-school program.”

“In a perfect world, we would be utilizing the rig, we would be having CrossFit in our PE classes, and everybody would be getting fit and getting great use out of the rig. That is my ultimate goal.”

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