Suburban Philadelphia girl lobbies again for girls to be able to play football with the boys

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DOYLESTOWN, Pennsylvania — Back to square one.

That's how it feels for 13-year-old Caroline Pla of Doylestown.

Pla received national attention two years ago after petitioning Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to allow girls to play football in Philadelphia's Catholic Youth Organization league.

Chaput eventually agreed, opening the door for anyone to play, while cautioning that the decision was provisional.

Turns out that provision has expired. So Pla once again is asking the archdiocese to reconsider its banning girls from the gridiron.

"I kind of feel like I have to start all over again," she said.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference's Education Department announced the decision in July, saying that no contact sport in CYO leagues would be allowed to have co-ed participation.

The sports include wrestling, tackle football, and tackle rugby. The ban was explained as a way to avoid "potentially immodest physical contact," according to a memo announcing the decision.

Pla, however, was allowed to complete during the 2014 football season with the Doylestown Romans. It was her last season, since CYO football runs only through eighth grade.

With Pla starting along the offensive line, the Romans won their second consecutive league championship, she said.

At 5-foot-4 and 125 pounds, Pla was often matched against boys much bigger than her, but she loved the competition.

At a postseason banquet, she told her teammates, "I will cherish Romans football for my whole life."

With the season out of the way, Pla wants to again share her story, to make sure girls in the future have the same opportunities she did.

She can't suit up next fall because of her age, but she sent an e-mail to Chaput last month urging him to reconsider the prohibition on co-ed football. Caroline's mother, Seal, said the family would likely start another online petition as well.

Their last version, in 2013, collected more than 100,000 signatures, and her story was featured on Good Morning America and Ellen DeGeneres' show.

Kenneth Gavin, an archdiocese spokesman, said no other girl had played football over the last two years and none had asked to.

He also said that Chaput's 2013 decision was intended to be provisional and that allowing Pla on the field was an exception to a long-standing rule.

But Pla said that she saw no reason to keep girls off the field and that she planned to keep up the fight even if she was the only girl in the league.

"What if someone does want to play some day and they're turned away?" she said. "I don't think that's fair."


Online:

http://bit.ly/1DUVsh8


Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.inquirer.com

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