Student Rights Press Release

08.15.13

ACLU Warns Fairfield County School Against Banning Female Football Players

Schools Must Give Equal Athletic Opportunities to Both Genders

BALTIMORE, OH – Today, the ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to the Liberty Union-Thurston School District calling its decision to prohibit seventh-grader Makhaela Jenkins from playing on her middle school football team because of her gender “unacceptable and unlawful.”

“This school is using outdated and untrue stereotypes about gender to decide who participates in athletics,” said ACLU of Ohio Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Martinez Atzberger. “Federal courts in Ohio have made it clear since the 1970’s that if a girl wants to play football, and there is not an equivalent team for girls, she must be allowed to try out for the boys’ team.”

The ACLU letter specifically references Clinton v. Nagy, a 1974 case in which a Cleveland family successfully challenged a ban on females trying out for a municipal football team.

According to media reports, Makhaela Jenkins has played youth-league football for years. Her middle school coaches were initially supportive of her efforts, granting her a roster spot and a locker; however, they have recently been told by Superintendent Paul Mathews that Makhaela can no longer participate in team practices or games because she is female.

“Makhaela is already a football player. She has practiced, competed, and earned her place among her male peers,” said Atzberger. “She has the blessing of her family, the support of her coaches, and the law on her side. There is no justification for stopping her from playing the sport she loves.”