ACLU-TN Secures Female Student’s Right To Play Football

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West Carroll Special School District Ends Discrimination Against Female Players

July 13, 2015

CONTACT: Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN communications director, 615-320-7142,

TREZEVANT, Tenn. – The West Carroll Special School District has agreed to allow a female student to join the junior high football team after the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee intervened on the girl’s behalf. The school district had initially refused the student’s request to join the team solely because of her gender.

“We applaud the school district for realizing that the Constitution requires it to provide equal access to sports for boys and girls alike,” said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN legal director. “The school district’s positive response is a step forward for gender equity in sports in our state.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee sent Director of Schools Eric Williams a letter in early June on behalf of Thalia Townsend and her family. Townsend, a rising seventh grader at West Carroll Junior/Senior High School, has played left tackle in a community football league for two years. On May 11, 2015, Townsend was turned away from the initial meeting of the West Carroll junior high football team by the coach, who stated that girls are not allowed to play football at the school. Every boy at the meeting was allowed to join the team. When Townsend’s mother, Michelle Larsen, contacted the coach and, subsequently, the director of schools, she too was told that the school had a policy against allowing girls to play football.

According to ACLU-TN’s letter, such a policy amounted to gender discrimination prohibited by the United States Constitution. The school district ultimately agreed, allowing Thalia to join the team.

“I couldn’t be happier. I just love playing football,” Townsend said. “I love being outside and getting muddy, hanging out with my guy friends and being aggressive on the field. I am thankful to everyone who has believed in me and supported my family in this. Now I just can’t wait to get back out there and play for my school.”

“People should be allowed to work toward their goals and follow their dreams, no matter if they are a boy or a girl,” said Michelle Larsen, Townsend’s mother. “We love our school district and are thrilled that they are now giving Thalia an equal opportunity to keep playing. We hope this shows all students—especially younger girls—that if they believe in themselves and fight hard enough, they can do anything they set their hearts and minds to.”

A copy of ACLU-TN’s letter to the school is available here.

2016-07-07T11:29:51-05:00 July 13th, 2015|Categories: Press Releases|