A lawsuit has been filed with hopes that it will change who can participate in Illinois High School Association athletic events. The lawsuit, filed by the Illinois attorney general’s office and Equip for Equality, claims that the IHSA is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal Rehabilitation Act, both of which require that no person be excluded from equal participation in public programs or activities based on a disability.
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Equip for Equality is representing Mary Kate Callahan, a 16-year-old junior at Fenwick Catholic High School in Oak Park, where she is on the swim team. Callahan, who doesn’t have the use of her legs because of a medical condition, is not allowed to compete with her high school swim team in IHSA meets at the sectional or state championship level because of current IHSA rules. “We work just as hard and want to represent our high schools at the highest level of competition, just like all athletes,” Callahan said. “The IHSA is preventing us from doing so.”
Laura Miller, an attorney with Equip for Equality, an advocacy group for the disabled, says they tried to resolve the matter outside of the courtroom but it has come to the point where court action is needed. She says 23 states currently have appropriate time standards for disabled student and allow their participation in sporting events. The hope is to see the matter resolved in Illinois before the 2012-13 school year begins.