With a sharp tongue, a refusal to compromise and a well-honed sense of injustice, Landau is that familiar breed of community activist with a knack for pushing public officials over the edge. His specialty is girls’ sports, and his targets are usually wealthy public schools from the Main Line suburbs that pride themselves on being progressive and fair in offering a rich array of opportunities.
No slight to girls is too small for Landau to take on. His victories range from the momentous to the less obvious, like forcing his daughters’ school district to provide more athletic choices, pressuring leagues to showcase their title games and getting a school mascot to perform at their games.
Landau’sÂ complaint against Haverford High School – over issues like publicity for and scheduling of boys’ and girls’ basketball games – has upset even those who would otherwise support him.
”I am like: ”Buddy, you know what? You just threw the wrong punch,’ ” said Bobbi Morgan, the women’s basketball coach at Haverford College, who used to coach the girls’ team at Haverford High School. ”I never worked anywhere where it was better.” ...
”Quite frankly, I shouldn’t have to do this,” Landau said. ”But it’s there. What possible argument is there that I’m wrong?”
Landau estimated he had filed at least 30 complaints, most contending unfair treatment of girls, with the Office for Civil Rights, the division of the federal Education Department that enforces the gender-equity law known as Title IX. His work has led to a change in practices at the school and district level in suburban Philadelphia.
Landau, who owns a lighting business, started as a parent activist and never stopped. Now 63, he has two daughters who have been out of school about 20 years and four grandchildren. ...
Landau is a rabid fan of Cheltenham High School girls’ basketball, and his commentary during games often turns heads. The coach, Bob Schaefer, said, ”He’s yelling things that you might be thinking, but he just belts it out.”When it comes to speaking out about unfairness, Landau can be just as passionate. He boasts that athletic directors regularly hang up on him, and relishes the time he made a cheerleading coach cry.
... Landau’s activism began in 1989, when his daughter started playing field hockey at Cheltenham. ”Karen kept coming home saying she had a different coach every day,” he recalled. ...Soon, parents at other schools enlisted his help, and Landau continued to spot unfair treatment.
Girls typically played basketball in the afternoons, and the boys in the evenings. Cheerleaders performed only at boys’ games. Boys played their title games at arenas like the Palestra at theUniversity of Pennsylvania, and girls were relegated to school gyms. His complainted have helped eliminate those inequities.
Landau’s interests have never been limited to girls’ sports. Early in his advocacy, he sued his daughters’ school district in federal court, contending that it did not provide adequate help to Karen, who has a learning disability. Although he lost the case, he said the district later expanded its offerings to students with learning disabilities. In the 1990s, Landau also successfully pressured the district to increase its hiring of minority teachers.
Landau said he was happy to bear the brunt of criticism to protect parents who do not want their complaints to reflect poorly on their children.
”A lot of people would complain about him, but if there was a problem, of any kind – sports, or if it grew into other things – they called him,” his wife, Jane Landau, said.
Landau has never been paid for his advocacy, but it worked in his favor in 1996, when he faced federal charges of defrauding a commercial loan company as the owner of a janitorial supply business. Landau repaid the $120,000 he owed the loan company, and later pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. Although Landau was facing prison, the judge, citing his local involvement, sentenced him to time in a halfway house and under house arrest, according to news reports.
”I made a business mistake, I got snagged, and that was that,” Landau said. ”I have no excuse. It makes me human. More human than most.”