Makhaela Jenkins was barred from her middle-school football team because she’s a girl, but now she’s challenging the district’s policy, the Associated Press reports.
Liberty Union-Thurston District in Baltimore, Ohio has banned girls from participating on school football teams. Superintendent Paul Matthews contends that the policy doesn’t violate any gender equality laws because the district offers other opportunities for girls to participate in sports. While Matthews might be right that the district’s policy doesn’t specifically violate Title IX, it does ignore that there are more than 1,500 girls playing high school football across the country.
Jenkins maintains that her gender is irrelevant — she deserves a spot on the team. Her family agrees, and adds that Jenkins has practiced, lifted weights, and played on youth football teams around the city.
“Some people have different goals and dreams they want to follow, and if they want to play a sport, (they) should be able to play a sport no matter what gender you are,” Jenkins told a local news station, according to the AP.
The district has not yet provided a reason for its ban, but similar bans in the past have focused on “inappropriate contact“, “impure thoughts”, and safety concerns. But given what we’ve learned about football in recent years, safety concerns about the game of football should cover all players, not just those who, like Jenkins, are female.
Jenkins’ story is part of a long journey toward full gender equality in sports. Female participation in sports has increased 545 percent at the college level and nearly 1,000 percent at the high school level since Title IX passed in 1972. Studies suggest female participation in sports has significant economic and educational benefits. But as Jenkins and her school district prove, the fight to tear down barriers that exist for women in sports is far from over.
Cameron Davis is an intern for Think Progress.