As national backlash has rained down on Wichita East principal Ken Thiessen for forcing Michael Kelly, a student at the school with Down Syndrome, to remove a boy’s basketball varsity letter jacket, Thiessen has remained steadfast in his insistence that Kelly was not allowed to wear the jacket for a practical reason; Kelly was not a formal member of the team.
— The Mighty (@TheMightySite) March 30, 2015
Now, the Wichita district school board has risked further furor by refusing to pass a rule that would require schools to give varsity letters to students with special needs. It, too, had a valid reason for the delay: It wants to wait on formal recommendations for the policy from the Tri-County Sports League, which is developing eligibility guidelines for special-needs students.
For it’s part, the Tri-County league itself admits that it is part of the reason behind the structural delays that could force another year to elapse before the varsity letter policies are put into effect.
“I realize we move at a snail’s pace with some of this stuff,” Bryan Wilson, chairman of the volunteer board, told the Wichita Eagle.
“But we’re trying to make it as legitimate and as formal as we can.”
In light of this controversy, KTVB reached out to a local athletic director to find out what policies the West Ada School District has in place to prevent a similar event from occurring.
Meridian High School athletic director Luke Wolf said coaches have to treat the field like the classroom.
“We have to be as inclusive as possible. If a student with disabilities does come out for try outs, we have to treat it as of it was a classroom and make accommodations and make an individualized plan for them,” Wolf said. “We have to provide modifications.”
“If the student wants to be a part of the team, that’s great, but we have a safety factor to consider,” Wolf said.