Female Ref Banned From Boys' Game

School objected to giving her authority over boys to call basketball game.

ByABC News via logo
January 8, 2009, 12:24 AM

Feb. 18, 2008 — -- Just minutes before she was scheduled to referee a boy's varsity basketball game at St. Mary's Academy, Michelle Campbell was told she would not be allowed to work the game because she is a woman.

St. Mary's Academy, near Topeka, Kan., is a controversial religious school that follows older Roman Catholic laws, but many argue that religious beliefs does not give the school the right to discriminate.

"The policy of the school was that they indeed do not permit female officials to officiate the boys athletic contests at their school," said Gary Musselman, executive director of the Kansas State High School Athletics Association.

Campbell says she is "dumbfounded" over the Feb. 2 incident.

"When I put that shirt on, I don't see a gender. I'm an official," she told "Good Morning America" today in a live interview from Kansas with the Rev. Darin Putthoff, the director of basketball for the Topeka Officials Association, who was scheduled to officiate the game with Campbell.

This is not St. Mary's first gender controversy. In 2004, St. Mary's refused to play a boys football game with White City because it had a girl playing on the team. St. Mary's forfeited the game.

"GMA" reached out to St. Mary's for a comment, but was told that the principal, the Rev. Vincente Griego, was not available and would not make any statements.

Campbell, a retired police officer, says she has great respect for the rules, but the argument doesn't make sense to her.

"I'm just an official out there to enforce the rules of the game. My responsibility is to make all the right calls and so that the athletes have a great game," she said.

Putthoff pointed out the hypocrisy, immediately asking the school, "why?"

"The response was about women having authority over men," Putthoff said. He then asked whether there were any female teachers who taught boys and what the difference was. "He said he 'didn't really know.'"