More athletes with disabilities may be able to play in high school sports, if Michigan schools vote to change the constitution of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
The MHSAA approved a proposal for a vote that would allow athletes over 19 to play with a waiver Monday.
The proposal now has to be voted on by Michigan high schools. It has to be approved by two-thirds of member schools in order to change the rule in the MHSAA constitution.
Currently under MHSAA rules, a student who turns 19 prior to Sept. 1 of a school year is not eligible for interscholastic athletics. Michigan is one of approximately 40 states which use this maximum or have a younger maximum age limit. The MHSAA’s Constitution, which can only be changed by a two-thirds vote of member schools, does not allow the maximum age rule to be waived. Michigan is in the majority of states which do not allow waiver of the rule.
A very welcome change could be coming soon to the Michigan High School Athletics Association.
Thanks to the efforts of one young man with Down syndrome, a world of opportunities may soon await student athletes with disabilities.
This fall, Eric Dompierre wants to play for his Ishpeming High School basketball team in the Upper Penninsula. Eric will be a senior, but the 19-year old student, who has Down syndrome, will be too old to play. At least, that's according to MHSAA rules that have been in place for over 30 years.
Eric and his father, accompanied by the school, have sent two petitions requesting an exception for the 19-year old to play. He, like many others with disabilities, that in their name, delay mental and physical growth, wants the chance to play with friends.
Both requests were denied by the MHSAA.
Thursday, a resolution by State Senator Kurt Heise was brought to the MHSAA's table. The bill proposes each case by looked at subjectively. Cases where students turn 19-years old before the September 1 deadline will be heard -- thanks to Eric's push.
"I want to play with my teammates, and they want to play with me," he said.
Attention to the Dompierre family's efforts certainly helped spike interest in the situation. Yet, Michigan couldn't be further from the lead of the pack in the action. 23 other states already accept waivers for students with disabilities.
"Something has to be done," the elder Dompierre said. "A solution is already out there."
Under the current rules, no one over the age of 19-years old after the Sep. 1 deadline would be allowed to play. There would be no exceptions for any student.
The move, if made by the usually archaic MHSAA, would be a huge opportunity for students with disabilities. For many of them, they start school later in their lives. This would properly allow them to flourish in the athletic forum as everyone should.
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