Principal Forces Student With Down Syndrome to Remove High School Letter Jacket

Michael Kelly is a high school student who plays on Wichita East’s special needs basketball team. His mother bought Kelly a letter jacket and a varsity letter to show his participation. But when Kelly, who has Down syndrome and autism, wore the jacket to school, he was forced to remove it and put on a sweatshirt instead. Why? According to school principal Ken Thiessen, it’s because Kelly isn’t actually on the varsity team. “Teachers told the parents they would prefer he not wear the letter on his jacket,” Thiessen told KSN TV adding that he would not allow special needs teams to have letters. “We have considered it, and our decision was no. We decided that it is not appropriate in our situation because it is not a varsity level competition.” There isn’t a district policy prohibiting Wichita East from giving letters to special needs athletes. According to the KSN report, district athletic director J. Means told the Kelly family that when he oversaw athletics at Wichita Northwest, he allowed letters for special needs students. “It’s not just my son, it’s every student that was out there last night,” Michael’s mother Jolinda Kelly said. “It’s every student that is there on Fridays, that plays their hardest.”

Source/more: USA Today
Related: Michael Kelly Change.org Petition

David Wingate is an elder law attorney practicing in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland. The elder law practice consists of Wills, Powers of Attorneys, Trusts, asset protection and Medicaid (Medical Assistance.)

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