Megan Garth isn’t just a talented field goal kicker. She might be the most talented field goal kicker at Prince Avenue Christian School in Bogart, Ga. Despite her ability and desire to reliably kick 30-yard field goals, however, she won’t be joining the school’s team.
“While the school recognizes the changing roles of girls in organized sports, its covenantal partnership does not support the belief that mixed athletic contact sports should traverse a spectrum from high school varsity all the way down to the second grade,” Prince Avenue Christian’s head of school Col. Seth Hathaway told the Atlanta Journal Constitution this week. He defined the “covenantal partnership” as a commitment to “uphold its community standards and the conservative temperament of the school.”
AJC’s Todd Holcomb, who penned a column on the growing debate about the issue of sports in private Georgia schools, pointed out Prince Avenue Christian is far from the only school to hold such beliefs. Other private, religious schools have declared similar beliefs, with Landmark Christian football Coach Wayne Brantley being among the most outspoken.
“I know that is probably not the politically correct answer, but we have boys sports and girls sports, and I believe we should stick with that,” Brantley told Holcomb. “We would not allow a boy to play girls basketball. Think of what might happen if that can of worms was opened — a 6-7, 255-pound boy dominating in girls basketball.”
There are obvious problems with Brantley’s rationalization. For one, there’s no equivalent all-girls football team at the private school, so to play the sport, Garth or girls like her would have to join the boys’ team. And also, unlike in basketball, football positions vary greatly. What makes a good linebacker often doesn’t make a good kicker and vice versa.
While this type of reasoning might raise eyebrows, it’s not breaking any laws. Because Prince Avenue Christian, Landmark Christian and other schools in this category do not receive federal funding, they’re not subject to the rules set forth by Title IX, which advocates equal access to sports among the sexes. And while Title IX does have a “contact sports exemption” that allows all schools to bar girls from joining boys’ contact sports teams, many schools have allowed girls to join boys’ football teams on a case-by-case basis. There are dozens of examples, and most recently, a woman named Becca Longo, who proved a talented kicker on the boys’ football team at Basha High School in Chandler, Ariz., is believed to have become the first female player to earn a scholarship to play the game in college.
Garth, who led Prince Avenue Christian’s girls’ soccer team last season with 25 goals, hasn’t spoken publicly about her situation, but her father told the AJC they were “disappointed” by the school’s decision, but that he and his daughter both “respect” it.
It’s unclear how the rest of the community might feel about the decision. According to the AJC, a petition at the 275-student school gathered 300 signatures in support of Garth. And while it doesn’t appear any students from the school are piping up on social media about the decision, others have voiced their criticism, including USA Today high school sports reporter Cam Smith, who pointed out that 49 girls competed for Georgia schools last season.
Smith said the school was forcing a “disadvantage” on itself with its decision, which it might soon come to regret.
“The debate will likely prove academic in the days and weeks ahead as both parties put the disagreement behind them,” Smith added. “At least until Prince Avenue needs a 30-yard field goal to win a game.”
Correction notice: This article originally had mistakenly identified Landmark Christian football Coach Wayne Brantley as the coach of the Prince Avenue Christian team.