Talks Continue To Allow Disabled Runner to Compete

Jul 16, 2004

The Associate Commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association told Sports Litigation Alert last week that the association is maintaining a dialogue with the interests representing a special-education student who wants to compete on his high school’s cross country team.
Speaking for IHSAA Commissioner Blake Ress, who was out of the office until July 12, Associate Commissioner Ray Craft said the association is talking to those representing 17-year-old Shelbyville High School Student Sam Gambrel about a “solution.”
“We’re looking at the by-laws to see if there is some way we can accommodate him,” said Craft.
Gambrel runs cross country and track, but the school does not record a time, citing the fact that he is not on track to receive a diploma, but rather a certificate because of his special-education status.
According to the Indianapolis Star, Gambrel’s family filed a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Justice. The paper also said that the school sought a waiver on Gambrel’s behalf from the association, though Craft would not confirm it to SLA.
Ress express the following concern to the paper about the disadvantage of immediately granting a waiver request: “Everything you do is precedent. When you start making exceptions to the rules, everybody then wants the exception.
“It’s got to be so narrow that there is not a loophole where some kid, just because he’s lazy and not passing, that his parents just don’t say, ‘Shoot, we’ll declare him learning-disabled or whatever and he won’t have to pass anything to play.’”
Any legal challenge would probably lean heavily on the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The federal law requires that any school that sponsors high school sports programs “shall provide to qualified handicapped students and equal opportunity for participation.” Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504.
Iowa and Delaware purportedly have laws that reinforce the federal law.


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