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ACLU Writes Letter on Behalf of Fairfield Co. Girl Kicked off Football Team

BALTIMORE, Ohio (Ken Hines) -- The ACLU has taken up the cause of a Fairfield County girl who has been banned from playing on her school's football team because of her sex.

The civil liberties advocates sent a letter to Liberty Union-Thurston School District officials on Thursday, slamming the decision to kick seventh-grader Makhaela Jenkins off her middle school team.

This school is using outdated and untrue stereotypes about gender to decide who participates in athletics, said ACLU of Ohio Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Martinez Atzberger.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 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.

Makhaela was left off her team's active roster because of a long-standing Liberty Union-Thurston District policy that prohibits girls from playing contact sports like football and wrestling.

"We think we have plenty of places for everyone to fit in, but it is simply a choice -- [a] Choice our district has the option to make," Liberty Union-Thurston superintendent Paul Mathews said.

ACLU lawyers have cited the 1974 federal case, Clinton v. Nagy, to challenge the district's claim. 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.

Makhaela is already a football player. She has practiced, competed, and earned her place among her male peers, Atzberger said. 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.

Liberty Union-Thurston board members have not publicly responded to the ACLU letter.
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