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Michigan To Allow Student Athlete With Down Syndrome To Play High School Sports

Online petition leads to new rules granting exceptions to age limits for those with disabilities


SHPEMING, MICHIGAN - The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) will adjust its age rules for student-athletes with disabilities, allowing Eric Dompierre, a 19-year-old student with Down syndrome at the center of a popular petition on Change.org, to play high school basketball and football during his senior year.Dean Dompierre and son Eric

Dompierre was told earlier this year that he would be prohibited from playing high school sports because of an MHSAA age rule that barred student athletes over the age of 19 from participating in athletics. Dompierre, now 19 years old, started school late because of his disability. His father, Dean, started a petition on Change.org urging the MHSAA to alter their age requirements for student athletes with disabilities, and his petition attracted more than 90,000 signatures.

"My son Eric started school a bit later, as do a number of other students with intellectual or physical disabilities," said Dean Dompierre. "But no child should be punished because they have Down syndrome, or because they have another disability. My son's teammates and coaches all support him, and are so glad to see Michigan do away with a rule that only serves to harm student athletes with disabilities."

Joins growing list

Michigan will join 23 other states that allow student athletes with disabilities the chance to participate in high school athletics through all four years, regardless of their age. The MHSAA made the rule adjustment after 94 percent of Michigan high schools sided with the Dompierres in a rules vote, and asked to have the age limit changed for student athletes with disabilities.

"The support from the community, from all across Michigan, and from 90,000 people around the country has been overwhelming for me and for Eric," Dean said. "We couldn't be more grateful to all those who helped make this a national issue, and who raised the profile of student athletes with disabilities."

"Dean's campaign on Change.org galvanized tens of thousands of people who wanted to see his son play high school sports, and who wanted the state of Michigan to treat student athletes with disabilities more fairly," said Michael Jones, Deputy Campaign Director for Change.org. "His victory is a testament to the fact that anyone, anywhere can use Change.org to help create change in their community."

For a YouTube video of Dean discussing his campaign to change the MHSAA rules on CNN's Situation Room, click here.

Source: Change.org.

Posted May 31, 2012