12-Year-Old Girl Banned From The Boys' Football Team In Ohio

“Football is an inspiration for me. It lets other people know you do what you want. It doesn’t matter what people think of you.”

That's what Makhaela Jenkins, a 12-year-old girl, says about why she wants to be able to play as a seventh grader on her middle school's football team. But according to her school district, she's not allowed to do so. Even though the ACLU of Ohio is fighting for her right to play, it doesn't look like the Liberty Union-Thurston school board is going to relent on their decision to keep an enthusiastic young female athlete from the field. Ugh.

Makhaela's been playing full-contact football, as well as other sports, for two years now. She wants to be able to play on her school's team, but as the school district doesn't allow girls to participate in contact sports, her request has been denied. The superintendent of schools in Baltimore, Ohio, Paul Mathews, said:

“Title IX requires us to offer equal opportunity for boys and girls. We offer a menu of sports so all can participate. We feel students are better off when they are involved in extracurricular activities.”

Although Makhaela says she'd be happy to play on an all-girls team, her school doesn't offer that option. ACLU of Ohio Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Martinez Atzberger says the school's decision is not only unfair, it's actually unlawful:

“This school is using outdated and untrue stereotypes about gender to decide who participates in athletics. Federal courts in Ohio have made it clear since the 1970s 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.”

This just sucks. It sucks for Makhaela and it sucks for her family. It sucks that, two days into practice earlier this August, Makhaela was called off the field and told she couldn't play football anymore. It sucks that a seventh-grade girl in 2013 is still prevented from participating in athletics because of institutional sexism. It sucks that Makhaela has been forced to learn the lesson that, if you're girl, there are still people who want to tell you can't do anything that boys can do.

The school district says their legal advisors have told them their decision is not violating Title IX. More than 100 girls have played on boys' football teams in Ohio, according a spokesperson from the the Ohio High School Athletic Association. Makhaela and her family plan to appeal the decision, but apparently the school board is unlikely to change their ruling.

Photo: Flickr user danxoneil