Federal Judge Dismisses Disabled Track Student’s Suit Against IHSA

By July 31, 2017 News No Comments

In A.H. v. IHSA, a federal judge dismissed a high school athlete’s discrimination claims against the Illinois High School Administration (IHSA). A.H. is a high school athlete who competes with his school’s swim, track, and cross country teams. A.H. has suffered from cerebral palsy from birth, and whereas he is not wheelchair bound, his physical disability has prevented him from participating in state track meets because he is unable to meet the qualifying times. Whereas his disability has prevented him from full participation in high school sports competitions, A.H. is considered one of the top disabled athletes in the state.

The IHSA denied A.H.’s requests to allow him extra start time during local track and cross-country events. A.H. requested that IHSA establish “realistic qualifying times for a para-ambulatory athlete to compete in the state finals and that IHSA establish a para-ambulatory division in its annual 5K ‘Road Race’ event.”

After the IHSA denied his requests, A.H., through his father, filed suit against the IHSA for violating the U.S. Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the equal protection clause of the U.S. and Illinois constitutions by denying him extra start times for qualifying track and cross-county competitions.

The federal judge dismissed all of A.H.’s claims against IHSA, finding them to be unreasonable because “anti-discrimination statutes require equality of opportunity and access, not of results.” Specifically, A.H. was unable to prove that he would qualify for state competitions if he was not disabled. In fact, 90% of the state’s non-disabled high school runners are also disqualified every year.

The judge further determined that what A.H. requested of IHSA in accommodating his disability would have fundamentally altered “the nature of the programs.” It was unreasonable for IHSA to accommodate his requests of establishing different qualifying times for competitions. Whereas “A.H. has an intense work ethic and has been dogged in the pursuit of his goals, it is an unfortunate fact of athletic life (and life in general, for that matter) that hard work is no guarantee of competitive success.” For these reasons, the federal judge dismissed all of A.H.’s discrimination claims against IHSA.

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