DETROIT (WWJ/AP) — A high school student with special needs took on the Michigan High School Athletic Association and won. The organization has agreed to adjust it’s age rules, after a petition drive in support of 19-year old Eric Dompierre gained national attention, drawing 93,000 supporters.
The push to loosen the requirement was accelerated after Dompierre’s petitioned to be able to play sports next season at Ishpeming High School, west of Marquette in the central Upper Peninsula.
Dompierre started school late because due to Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder.
Talking WWJ Newsradio 950 Dompierre said he’s happy about being able to play next year.
“It feels really good because kids in the next generation like me … I think I may set an example and that makes me feel good,” Dompierre said.
More than 90-percent of school coaches and administrators voted in support of a waiver.
Eric’s father, Dean, hopes other states follow suit.
“We’re the 24th state now in the nation that allows waivers like this. And we’re hoping that other states now take Michigan’s lead so they don’t deny kids, you know, in their state an opportunity to play as Seniors,” he said.
Dean Dompierre said he plans to work “by tomorrow” with Ishpeming High officials to obtain the paperwork needed to formally file a waiver request with the MHSAA.
Under the previous language of the group’s constitution, students who turned 19 before Sept. 1 were prohibited from playing sports for the full academic year.
The new rule states that:
— A student’s educational progress must have been delayed prior to initial enrollment in the ninth grade solely because of a medically documented disability under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act or Michigan’s Persons With Disabilities Civil Rights Act.
— At the time of the waiver request, a student must have a defined disability documented to diminish both physical and either intellectual or emotional capabilities, does not create a health or safety risk to participants and does not create a competitive advantage for the team.
Fewer than half of the MHSAA’s nearly 1,600 public and private high schools and junior high schools voted on the matter, a fact noted by John E. “Jack” Roberts, the group’s executive director.
“Our challenge now is to demonstrate to the negative voters and to those many schools which didn’t cast a vote at all, that this is a narrow gate that preserves the integrity of the program as effectively as the previous rule that was so well understood and respected,” Roberts said in a statement.
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