OK, did you see this in the news from my old stomping grounds in Texas? Mackenzie McCollum, a pregnant 17-year-old high school volleyball player in Fort Worth, Texas, has filed a federal civil-rights complaint after her coach first benched her for several games this season and then later required her to get a doctor’s permission before she could continue playing. She alleges the coach and school discriminated against her by not letting her play, and therefore, she may have lost the chance at getting a college athletic scholarship. Hmmm.
The coach and his bosses at the school district contend that their primary consideration must be for the health and safety of one of their students, especially one who happened to be carrying an unborn child.
Let me say from the outset, I’m the last person in the world who will ever condone teenage pregnancy. I am sickened when I read that unplanned pregnancies among teenagers are on the rise again. Children having children is never, ever, a good idea. I guess the question the court will be asked to decide, if the case goes forward, is whether or not the teen mother-to-be was damaged by the school’s actions, or was it right to act to protect the mother and her unborn child? Again, hmmm.
As a former litigation strategist and consultant, I feel I could argue either side effectively. Federal Title 9 law prevents sex discrimination in education, and that includes classification based on a student’s pregnancy. So she is going to have an argument to make in court.
Still, what would you do here? After all, we’re not talking about croquet. We are talking about competitive volleyball, where players often have to “dig” for the ball by making diving moves toward the floor. If you were the coach of MacKenzie’s team, how comfortable would you feel watching her trot out on the floor (she was four months pregnant when she was benched)? Even though MacKenzie did get a statement from a doctor saying she was perfectly capable of competing, as long as she did not dive too aggressively for balls and land on her stomach, would you truly feel comfortable letting her play?
I do admire MacKenzie for having the courage to go public and fight for what she sees as her athletic rights. I also hope she is working even harder to prepare herself to be a good parent at such a young age — which is her ultimate challenge. Getting a scholarship could pay for an education that could help provide for her child, but either way, she has a long, long road ahead.
So: Let her play, or sit her down? You make the call.