PROPOSED AGE WAIVER FOR DISABLED PASSED
While the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s age restriction is a good general rule in that it protects young athletes from the obvious dangers of competing against physically well-developed adults, the rule doesn’t serve its intended purpose in certain cases. In the case of certain student-athletes, it merely excludes them without really protecting anyone from harm. A request was made by the Ishpeming School District on behalf of a Hematite student-athlete with Down syndrome who, through no fault of his own and because of his need to build the strong academic foundation in early elementary school that was necessary for success in the remainder of his K-12 schooling, would not have been able to compete in any high school sport in any manner as a senior due to the current age restriction.
After a two-and-a-half year long struggle, the Ishpeming School District has been successful in convincing the MHSAA to allow its member schools to vote on a waiver policy for those who meet strict disability criteria. As expected, the schools wholeheartedly (94%) approved the policy.
As a result, current Hematite Eric Dompierre will now be able to play both football and basketball in his senior year (provided the MHSAA approve his waiver request at their August 8th meeting as we expect they will). Even more importantly, other students like him across Michigan will also be able to play for a full four years in the future. From our experience, we know that this will benefit everyone who comes into contact with them and will enhance the high school sports experience for everyone in Michigan.
The Ishpeming School District, along with the Dompierre family, would like to thank the many people who took the time to educate themselves about the issue and then lend their support to these very deserving young people. The 90,000-plus signers of our petition at Change.org, as well as the countless citizens who sent communications to the MHSAA, the media, legislators, and the voting member schools deserve all of the credit for helping to make this change.
We’re now hoping that the other 26 states that still exclude kids like Eric will take Michigan’s lead and institute waiver policies of their own.