Teen with Down-Syndrome Fighting to Continue to Play High-School Sports
- Published on Friday, 20 April 2012 16:12
Eric has had a lot of great moments that have brought pride to his parents, his team and himself. During this year's basketball play-offs he hit a three-pointer during the final minutes of the game against a rival team. His shot brought supporters on both sides to their feet. The reaction was the same when Eric kicked his first extra point for the football team at the end of the game two years ago. "I was amazed that he even had the opportunity to kick, and then when he did it, I thought woo-hoo! And then watching the kids react, they carried him off the field; it was just one of the best moments," recalls Eric's mother, Jill Dompierre.
Now that he's a junior in high-school in Michigan, 19-year old Eric is facing the possibility that his carreer may end at the end of this year. This would result in him missing the opportunity to play his senior year. The Michigan High School Athletic Association Constitution states that any student 19 or older or who turns 19 before September 1st of the current school year, is not allowed to play sports. The purpose of the rule is to eliminate the possibility of injury from an older player or of an unfair competitive advantage. Eric reached the age 19 early because he was held back in Kindergarten as a result of his disability. Twenty-three states allow age exceptions to be made for students with disabilities but Michigan is not one of them.
Eric's parents have been trying for two years to get the board to change the rule including among other things filing two proposals. However, the Michigan Athletic Association Comittee has not been willing to budge. James Derocher, committee president says "our members have to change the constitution and at this point in time they've told us 'no.' " Their biggest concern is other 19-year-olds asking for the same accomodation in the future with claims of a disability.
The school district has submitted a third proposal on Eric's behalf. The committee can choose to pass or deny it, or to put it to a vote for schools around the state. A decision will be made in May at the next committee meeting. An online petition has been made to encourage the comittee which now has more than 80,000 signatures.
And what does Eric say about all of this, "I would say let me be with my friends so I can be with them. They want me to play as much as I want to play with them."