Earlier this month, 12-year-old footballer Makhaela Jenkins was told by the Liberty Union-Thurston school board that she could not play her sport at school. Why? Because the football team at her school is all-boys. It seemed like the decision was set in stone, but last Friday the school district reversed their decision, and Jenkins is now free to play on the team after all.
Although Superintendent Paul Matthews maintains the school's decision to bar Jenkins from the team was within its rights, the ACLU disagrees. "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," explained ACLU of Ohio Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Martinez Atzberger.
The school district ultimately decided the issue was not worth spending tax money on. “We are [...] adamant that local tax dollars will not be wasted. We have no intent of competing with the deep pockets of the ACLU in any litigation situation in order to secure a favorable judgment," Matthews explained in a statement. And rightly so: Not all taxpayers would be happy to know their dollars are spent to reinforce sexist policies.
Jenkins has been playing full-contact football, which the Ohio school deemed too rough for girls, for more than two years now. No news yet on when Jenkins will hit the field, but this reversal will be welcomed by the ACLU, Jenkins, and female athletes all over. Seems like the only ones not getting the memo are Matthews and his followers, who still need the thought of losing money as an incentive to put aside their beliefs that a lady's dainty figure can't handle some rough tackling.
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