Pregnant Volleyball Player Serves Complaint to FWISD

Teen files civil-rights complaint after coach requires doctor's note to play

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    A pregnant high school volleyball player in Fort Worth filed a federal discrimination complaint after her coach required her to get a doctor’s permission before she could continue playing.

    A pregnant high school volleyball player in Fort Worth filed a federal discrimination complaint after her coach required her to get a doctor’s permission before she could continue playing.

    Mackenzie McCollum, 17, a senior at Arlington Heights High School, filed a civil-rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, said Lara Kaufmann, the girl’s attorney.

    The agency is investigating the complaint, Kaufmann said.

    McCollum missed several key games that could have cost her a college scholarship before she obtained a doctor’s approval and returned to the team, the lawyer said.

    ”It was peak recruiting season,” she said.

    Kaufmann, an attorney with the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., said the district violated Title IX, the landmark law passed in 1972 aimed at ending sex-based discrimination in public schools.

    “They can't just categorically exclude students who are pregnant," Kaufmann said. "They need to treat everyone the same.”

    Asked if they plan to file a lawsuit, Kaufman said she could not comment.

    “We're not looking for money here,” she said. “The main goal is to get the district to adopt a more robust policy that lays out how to treat pregnant students.”

    Meanwhile, some teammates defended Coach Jack Warren, saying he was just using common sense and was acting in her best interest.

    “It’s gone out of control,” said Brooke Halsey, a team captain. “She's still my friend, and I don't want to bash her at all. I just want Coach Warren to be represented. He's a good guy, a great person, and he's been an awesome coach."

    "Everybody who knows Coach Warren knows he was looking out for her best interest,” said Gordy Halsey, Brooke’s father. “Good people have been hurt in this.”

    The coach’s supporters have set up a Facebook page titled, “I support Coach Warren and the FWISD.” It had nearly 500 supporters Monday night.

    McCollum declined to comment. Her attorney said she is distraught over negative reaction to her complaint and the first story about it reported by ESPN.

    "The issue is one of sex discrimination,” said Fort Worth attorney Frank Colosi, who is not involved in McCollum's case.

    The district violated federal law if it singled her out and did not require doctor’s notes from all athletes with medical issues, he said.

    "The allegation is the school district was concerned about pregnancy and not medical condition in general," he said. "That's a problem. That's illegal. And they could lose their federal funding over stuff like that."

    The district issued a written statement defending how it handled the matter.

    “We believe our foremost concern through the entirety of this episode has been for the safety and the rights of the student,” the statement said. “We strongly contend neither the student’s rights, district policy, state or federal law has been violated."