As the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) looks to expand opportunities for student-athletes with disabilities, the statewide organization announced that it has filed for declaratory judgment against the Illinois Attorney General. The complaint seeks judicial direction pertaining to opportunities for student-athletes with disabilities in state championships.
According to last month’s filing in McLean County Circuit Court, representatives for the Illinois Attorney General repeatedly threatened legal action against the IHSA should the IHSA fail to comply with their demand for a separate event for "disabled students" at the IHSA State Championship track and field events. Furthermore, the complaint states that at no time has the Illinois Attorney General's office set forth with particularity any specific violation of any specific law on the part of the IHSA. Representatives have also refused to discuss the rights and obligations of the parties under applicable law.
“We are simply asking the court to provide us further guidance as we continue to champion the rights of student-athletes with disabilities.” said Marty Hickman, Executive Director of the IHSA. “We always have promoted opportunities for student-athletes with disabilities, making accommodations upon request in a number of events.”
According to Hickman, the lawsuit is not an attempt to limit the IHSA’s provision of events for students with disabilities, rather it is a proactive step to ensure the IHSA is acting in compliance with its obligations under applicable state and federal law.
Last month, several panels appeared before an IHSA Ad-Hoc committee as part of the association’s ongoing review of opportunities for student-athletes with disabilities. Among the panelists were parents and representatives from the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Agency, World Sport Chicago, Special Olympics, the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, school districts and regional special recreation associations.
The IHSA formed the Ad-Hoc committee earlier this year at the request of one of its member schools. The committee is also evaluating the need to expand those opportunities, and they have begun to prepare recommendations to the IHSA Board. The committee is also surveying its nearly 800 member schools to develop a census of student-athletes with disabilities. It is also outreaching to stakeholders and other agencies to gather additional insight and information regarding potential participation levels.
The committee’s recommendations at the state championship level would build on measures the IHSA has already taken over the years to accommodate athletes with prosthetic limbs, athletes in wheelchairs, visually impaired and hearing impaired athletes, and athletes with paralysis to compete in sports like basketball, gymnastics, golf, bowling, swimming, track and field, and cross country.
The committee is expected to report back to the IHSA Board of Directors in full by its June 11 meeting.
ABOUT THE IHSA
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Founded in 1900, the Illinois High School Association is a not-for-profit organization with over 780 member high schools. The IHSA is headquartered in Bloomington and is not funded by tax dollars or administered by the government in the State of Illinois. The IHSA staff administers the state tournaments in all sanctioned activities and sports, including the selection of State Series sites, assignment of officials and on-site state final management. IHSA State Final events are celebrated by schools, competitors, coaches, communities and fans alike each year, and rightly so, but it is also important to remember that only a small percentage of the participants from IHSA member schools reach this level of competition. The IHSA’s existence centers around fostering participation opportunities that will help develop and instill the necessary characteristics to make today’s high school students tomorrow’s community leaders. The Future Plays Here!