A pregnant volleyball player who says she was discriminated against was one of more than 200 students asked for medical waivers last year, the Fort Worth Independent School District said in response to a federal discrimination complaint.
Mackenzie McCollum, 17, a pregnant student-athlete at Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, filed a complaint last year alleging she was discriminated against when coaches refused to let her play on the volleyball team.
The district said it asked McCollum for a doctor's waiver to make sure she was healthy enough to participate in the sport, just like it did for other students when their medical condition had changed. More than 200 other student-athletes were asked to provide a doctor's waiver when their medical condition changed, according to the district’s response to the girl’s federal complaint.
The response was written by an attorney hired by the school district in December but released Wednesday by the Department of Education after a Freedom of Information Act request.
The case has drawn national attention, including a lengthy report on sports network ESPN.
In its response, the district denied targeting McCollum because of her pregnancy.
The district said it asked a total of 235 athletes at high schools across the district -- male and female -- to get similar letters in the 2009-2010 school year.
The first letter she obtained from her doctor, on Oct. 16, was a “conditional release that had medical restrictions and monitoring equipment,” the district’s attorney wrote, and she was not allowed to play.
Three days later, the same doctor cleared her unconditionally and she was allowed to play at that time, the attorney said.
“She was treated in the same manner as other participants in the district’s athletic program,” the attorney said.
The complaint is still pending with the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education.
McCollum’s attorney, Lara Kaufmann, of the Washington-based National Women’s Law Center, said she had not seen the district’s response and could not comment.
McCollumn is focusing on school and no longer giving media interviews, Kaufmann said.