David Barker, a disabled student, has filed suit against the Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) alleging that he has been barred from Ayala High School’s (AHS) baseball program due to his disabilities, says the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. Barker suffers from deafness, cerebral palsy and controlled seizure disorder. The suit notes that despite his physical limitations he’s played baseball since he was 9.
According to Baker’s attorney, Jason Ryan Thompson, the suit is seeking a court order to force AHS to allow him to participate with the baseball team. “They don’t want to let him physically participate with the team at all,” Thompson said. “They feel he didn’t score high enough in tryouts, and that’s that.”
Baker played with Ayala’s freshman baseball team, but in December 2010 he claims he was told by coaches that he could not participate on the school’s junior varsity team after he fell short in team tryouts. The suit alleges the district’s actions violate the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Baker hopes to be able to participate in practices, winter games and summer games, but not in games during the traditional season, says Thompson. A hearing on the boy’s request is scheduled for Feb. 29 at West Valley Superior Court. At the hearing, Thompson will seek a temporary restraining order to force CJUSD to accommodate Baker. Thompson believes that if Baker prevails at the hearing, the school district will be more open to a settlement allowing Baker to participate on the team full-time.
Thompson claims Baker and his family decided to sue to CVUSD because during settlement discussions the district refused to allow him to participate with the team. “[T]hey didn’t offer anything by way of compromise,” Thompson said.
Source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, 2/9/12, Will Bigham
[Editor's Note: One of the most difficult responsibilities a high school coach faces is having to "cut" players from the squad in order to comply with state athletic association rules limiting roster size. For example, a basketball a coach is typically limited to a 15 player roster in most states. Sometimes a players who try out for the varsity team can be assigned to the junior varsity squad; but the coach will still be faced with eliminating candidates for the team at some point. The coach may also exercise the option of allowing a player cut from the team to practice with squad without being a rostered member of the team.
In January 2006, Thomas Hutton, a former senior staff attorney at NSBA, wrote an Inquiry & Analysis article titled Put me in, coach—or else: Litigation over playing time, which is available to COSA members. The article discussed discrimination claims brought by student-athletes under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The article stated:
A challenge under Section 504 or the ADA would also have to establish that the athlete is "otherwise qualified" to participate with or without reasonable accommodation. There is a recognized exception to the "otherwise qualified" requirement where the student's participation may pose a direct threat to others. For example, the Sixth Circuit determined in 2000 that a school district did not violate Section 504 and the ADA by placing an athlete who was hemophiliac and a carrier of hepatitis B on "hold" while awaiting medical clearance. As for IDEA, its applicability to a dispute over athletics depends on whether the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) specifically calls for athletic participation.
There is overlap between discrimination claims under these statutes and disciplinary claims where a disciplined athlete argues that the misbehavior was a manifestation of his or her disability (under IDEA) or that an exception to the disciplinary rule would be a reasonable accommodation.]