Wichita to award varsity letters to special needs students

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Students who play in a special-needs sports league in the Wichita area scored a victory, after the school board voted to direct schools to award regular varsity letters to students who participate in the Tri-County Athletic League.

The Wichita school board voted unanimously Monday to accept new guidelines proposed by the Tri-County league, which has teams from 11 area high schools for students with special needs. The handbook includes criteria for earning an athletic letter.

Students who wish to be considered for a letter must participate on a Tri-County team for at least two seasons, attend at least 70 percent of practices and games, demonstrate good sportsmanship, give consistent effort, exhibit respect and finish the season in good academic standing.

The decision comes after a Wichita mother, Jolinda Kelley, complained that her special needs son, Michael, was told last year that he should not wear a letter jacket with a varsity letter she had purchased for him, The Wichita Eagle reported. District officials have said no one asked the student to take the jacket off.

Kelley told board members that she was “thankful for being heard.”

“Everybody is looking at my child as the poster child for this, but it’s not about him. It’s not about one jacket,” she said at the Monday meeting. “It’s about an entire nation making a change. Because we can say inclusion, but is it truly inclusion? Are we truly giving them what they earn?”

Letters will be awarded to Tri-County athletes beginning this school year, and those who currently meet the criteria will receive their letters in the coming weeks, league officials said.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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