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Liberty Union-Thurston School District to Allow Girl to Play Football
BALTIMORE, Ohio (Ken Hines) -- Liberty Union-Thurston School District officials will allow a 7th grade girl to play football after initially banning her due to her sex.
The move was announced Friday after critics put intense pressure on district administrators to reinstate Makhaela Jenkins to her middle school football team.
Chief among the district's critics were lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who sent a letter calling for Jenkins' inclusion to Liberty Union-Thurston board members.
In a statement released to media outlets, Liberty Union-Thurston Superintendent Paul Mathews announced that board members will now allow females to participate on the district's football teams, while reiterating his belief that girls should be prohibited from playing on boys' teams.
Matthews said he backed down because of a desire to avoid a costly legal battle with the ACLU.
"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 said.
In her letter to the district, ACLU lawyer Jennifer Martinez Atzberger accused the school of "using outdated and untrue stereotypes about gender to decide who participates in athletics.
ACLU lawyers had cited the 1974 federal case, Clinton v. Nagy, to challenge the district's stance. In that case, a U.S. District Court ruled on behalf of the family of a 12-year-old girl who challenged a Cleveland ban on the inclusion of females on a municipal football team.
Jenkins' plight made headlines across the country, and resulted in an outpouring of support for the young football player.
Jenkins met one of those supporters on Friday, when she was presented with Columbus Comets game tickets from Dee Sherman, a player for the women's professional football team.
"No child should be denied an opportunity to pursue a sport and pursue their dreams," Sherman said.