My daughter is hearing impaired and was retained because of her disability. She played basketball in middle school until age 15 when the athletic association notified her that she was ineligible to play because of her age.
Although she wants to play basketball in high school, she will only be eligible in 9th and 10th grades. She is being penalized because of her disability and I don’t think it’s fair. Is this legal?
No, it’s not fair and some courts have found that this is discrimination.
Several years ago, there was a case in WV – a deaf or severely hearing impaired boy went away to a residential program for a year. When he came home, he returned to public school and played sports. He was a year older than his classmates which wasn’t a problem until his senior year. The school said he couldn’t play football because he was too old. The attorney who represented him claimed that this was discrimination under Section 504 and also violated the West Virginia Human Rights statute. They won.
You’ll also find a discussion of the age nineteen rule and other issues in Baisden v. WV Secondary Schools Activities Commission at
The Court held …
“Because age alone does not determine one’s qualifications for interscholastic sports competition and discrimination against exceptional students should be avoided where a reasonable accommodation of disabilities may be made, the otherwise salutary age nineteen rule, set forth in West Virginia Code of State Regulations § 127-2-4.1, may be waived. Waiver should be granted where a student’s disabilities have delayed his progression through the education process and it is shown that the participation of the student requesting a waiver will not materially alter the quality of the interscholastic sports competition involved.”
In so many cases, parents are told something by a school authority figure and believe it. Later, when they find out that the person was misinformed, it’s too late to fix the problem.
You need to do some independent research on your own. You need to know the case law in your state – if there have been similar cases and what the outcome was.
1. Use the internet to find information about the current status of the policies or regulations about eligibility for sports and age.
2. Is the athletic association a state or national organization? Write a letter and request the rules for a child this age, accommodations for children with disabilities. Ask for a written copy of their policies.
This issue affects many kids. Don’t hesitate to share your research and what you learn with others – school personnel and parents.