BALTIMORE, Ohio - A 12-year-old’s dream of playing football for her school has been sidelined by a central Ohio school district because she’s a girl.
Makhaela Jenkins, of Baltimore, Ohio, was told Tuesday that she’s ineligible to play for her middle school football team because the Liberty Union-Thurston School District does not allow females to play contact sports. The list of sports girls are not allowed to play includes football and wrestling.
The team's coaches gave Makhaela a roster spot and a locker after she spent the previous two days practicing. But district Superintendent Paul Matthews said she is not allowed to participate in any games or contact drills.
Matthews said the district is not violating any rules or regulations, including Title IX, a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972. The law reads in part:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance..,” the document reads.
Under Title IX, all public schools that receive federal funds are required to perform self-evaluations of their efforts to provide equal opportunities based on sex, according to the Equity Resource Center. School administrators are also required to provide written assurances to the Department of Education that their institutions are in compliance with the guidelines while federally funded equipment and/or facilities are in use.
Matthews said the school district is not violating the policy because the school provides opportunities for girls to play sports.
"We think we have plenty of places for everyone to fit in, but it is simply a choice,” he said about the district’s policy.
Matthews cited a federal law that permits school districts to decide if a girl can play contact sports.
“It is a choice our district has the option to make and that is the choice we have decided to make," he said.
The move came as a surprise to the Jenkins family and other members of the community because Makhaela has played youth football in the Baltimore area for several years without incident. The league where she played was not affiliated with the school district.
Makhaela, who spent the offseason weightlifting to get ride for the upcoming season, said she has earned a spot on the team and wants to play.
The seventh-grader also said allowing her to play would send a social message.
"It sets me apart from everyone else and it lets everyone know it is OK to be different and you don't have to follow what everyone else does," she said.
Some members of the community are asking the district to change its policy.
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