Officials look into referee's removal

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --- Kansas activities officials are investigating an allegation that a religious school refused to allow a female referee call a boys high school basketball game.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association said referees reported that Michelle Campbell was preparing to officiate at St. Mary's Academy near Topeka on Feb. 2 when a school official insisted that Campbell could not call the game. The reason given, according to the referees: Campbell, as a woman, could not be put in a position of authority over boys because of the academy's beliefs.

Campbell then walked off the court, joined by two male referees who wanted to show their solidarity.

The KSHSAA said it is considering whether to take action against the school. St. Mary's Academy, about 25 miles northwest of Topeka, is owned and operated by the Society of St. Pius X, which follows older Roman Catholic laws. The society's world leader, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in the late 1980s.

Gary Musselman, the association's executive director, said the organization will not make a decision until it confirms whether St. Mary's Academy has a policy of not allowing female referees to work boys basketball games.

If that is indeed the school's written policy, Musselman said, the association could decide to remove St. Mary's Academy from the list of approved schools and take away its ability to compete against the association's more than 300 member schools.

St. Mary's Academy officials declined comment when contacted by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

St. Mary's Academy is among 30 schools on the list that are not full association members but compete against schools that are. Musselman said St. Mary's Academy plays one or two games per season against member schools but has no more scheduled this school year.

He said if removed from the approved list for next school year, St. Mary's Academy still would be able to compete against approved schools that are not members of the association.

Musselman said the association hopes to resolve the matter sometime this week.

Campbell and the two referees who supported her in the incident did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday.

However, Campbell, 49, a retired police officer from Ozawkie, Kan., told The Kansas City Star that she was "dumbfounded" by the incident but that she is not angry at the school. She said she does not want the situation to go any further than it already has.


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