Pregnant HS Athlete Says Playing Won't Hurt Fetus

Fort Worth volleyball player filed discrimination complaint against school district

A pregnant high school athlete who filed a discrimination complaint against the Fort Worth school district says playing volleyball won't harm her unborn child.

Mackenzie McCollum, 17, filed a civil-rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education after her coach required her to get permission from a doctor before she could continue playing.

McCollum, a senior at Arlington Heights High School, told MSNBC on Thursday that she is a good player who doesn't need to dive for balls.

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"A lot of athletes, volleyball athletes, will tell you that a good player does not need to dive on the ground," she said. "And I feel like I did my part on the team as to where there wasn't contact, and there wasn't a need for me to ever have to play so hard that it would have hurt the baby, it would hurt the fetus."

McCollum told MSNBC that her head coach, Jack Warren, limited her time on the court after the school administration found out she was pregnant. The coaches let her play for several weeks after she told them she was pregnant.

McCollum's attorney, Lara Kaufmann, said the Fort Worth Independent School 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," Kaufman said. "They need to treat everyone the same."

McCollum said the time she missed may have cost her college scholarships.

"Though people are looking out for my safety -- which I appreciate -- I did go to my doctor and I asked if volleyball was OK for me, and one of his big issues and one of his main concerns was me diving, and before I was pregnant, I did not dive on the ground," she said.

Some of McCollum's teammates have come out in support of the coach.

"It makes sense," said Brooke Halsey, a team captain. "It's school policy. I mean, if somebody breaks their leg, they have to go to a doctor and get a release to play, so it should be the same for pregnancy."

In a written statement, the Fort Worth ISD defended its handling of 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."

Warren declined to be interviewed.

Scott Gordon contributed to this report.

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