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UPDATE: Girl Challenges Ban from Ohio School Football Team
BALTIMORE, Ohio (AP) -- After a 12-year-old is told she can't play football with the boys, the ACLU sent a letter to Makhaela Jenkins' superintendent calling the district's decision "unacceptable and unlawful".
Makhaela has played youth football for years, but the superintendent recently told coaches she was no longer allowed to participate in team practices or games because she's a girl.
BALTIMORE, Ohio (AP) -- A central Ohio district's refusal to let a seventh-grader compete on a football team because she's a girl has prompted requests that the board change its policy banning female students from school teams in such contact sports.
Makhaela Jenkins has played youth football around Baltimore, southeast of Columbus, but isn't allowed on the active roster for her school team. As a girl, she is banned from participating in games and contact drills.
Liberty Union-Thurston District superintendent Paul Mathews argues the district's policy doesn't violate any gender-related regulations on participation because the district provides other athletic opportunities for female students.
Makhaela tells WTTE-TV in Columbus that she believes gender shouldn't affect whether students can play their desired sports.
Her relatives contend she practiced, lifted weights and earned the right to play.
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12-Year-Old Girl Not Allowed to Play Football
BALTIMORE, Ohio -- A 12-year-old's dream of playing football has been side-lined because she's a girl.
Makhaela and her friend, Milton, have played youth league football together for years. Both were excited to play on the Lion's seventh grade team in the Liberty Union-Thurston District. Milton gets to be on the roster, but Makhaela was told this week she can't play.
"It kinda crushed me a little bit," says Makhaela.
Family and friends say she has worked hard to condition and thinks she should be allowed to play because she has earned it.
"You teach people to have equality and be fair, not discriminate, that teaches the wrong thing. You say 'go for it,' but you are not allowed because I say so," comments Kenny, Makhaela's uncle.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association permits girls to play football.
Federal guidelines allow districts to make the decision on whether contact sports like football are co-ed.
The team's coaches had given Makhaela a roster spot and a locker, but were told by district superintendent Paul Mathews that she can not participate in any games or contact drills.
Mathews says it's a matter of district policy.
"We think we have plenty of places for everyone to fit in, but it is simply a choice," Mathews said. "A choice our district has the option to make."
For Makhaela it is a decision that she says is unfair. Girls in other communities play football.
"It sets me apart, it lets everybody know it is OK to be different. You don't have to follow what everybody does," Makhaela adds.
The girl's family wants the board to reconsider their decision, both for their daughter and for student athletes to come.
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