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MHSAA made right call in age limit case

Where we stand

June 3, 2012
The Mining Journal

It was a long, difficult uphill climb, but it appears belief in their cause and perseverance have lead to victory for Eric Dompierre and his family.

That victory came when the Michigan High School Athletic Association voted recently to approve an age waiver rule that will allow students with disabilities to play high school sports despite age limitation rules that have been in place for years.

Eric, 19, has Down syndrome and his father, Dean Dompierre, began petitioning the association two years ago to change the age rule limitations to allow his son to play sports his senior year.

Entering Ishpeming High School this coming fall with his fellow IHS Class of 2013 students, the younger Dompierre has played basketball and football the past two years and wants to continue playing.

The MHSAA rejected the petitions and held fast to its age limitation rules, which state a student cannot compete in high school sports if they have turned 19 before Sept. 1.

Through news reports on the Dompierres' efforts and social media, word spread quickly and their story appeared in such national publications as The New York Times newspaper and Sports Illustrated magazine.

Dean and Eric also traveled to Lansing to address the Senate Education Committee, which drafted a resolution calling on the MHSAA to adopt an age-rule waiver for students with disabilities.

The MHSAA finally decided to seek input from its member schools, with an overwhelming number of those that voted - 94 percent - supporting the change.

None of this, of course, appeared to make MHSAA Director John Roberts particularly happy. For a front page story Friday, Roberts snipped that he was "OK" with the waiver but felt the decision had been handed down to the schools, rather than the schools asking the 19-member MHSAA Representative Council for a change.

"It was the Representative Council down to the schools, rather than from the schools up to the council," Roberts said. "That's where the discomfort is among our council members. I'm expressing that on their behalf and on my own that the guiding principle of doing what schools ask of us was, in this case, violated, and that's bothersome."

It couldn't have been all that bothersome, with nearly all of the schools participating in the process supporting it.

Bottom line at the end of the day, the MHSAA made the right decision when it voted to open the door to allow older students to participate in sports - with some limitations.

Eric, as well as other students in similar situations, will need to apply for a waiver from the age limitation rule.

We're confident the waiver will be granted in the Dompierre case, and Eric will be able to join his friends on the football field and basketball court next school year and strive to accomplish his athletic goals.



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