Lawsuit: Illinois high school sports fail to accommodate students with disabilities

A.G., a high school sophomore with arthrogryposis, excels at swimming. Since taking up the sport less than two years ago, she has become a star and is in contention for a spot on the U.S. Paraolympic team that will compete in London later this year.

Swim Meet
Swim Meet

At the high school sports level, however, she was unable to compete at her own state’s championship meet and earn points for her school.

On May 16, Equip for Equality and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit on behalf of A.G. and five other similarly situated high school athletes with disabilities, charging that the Illinois High School Association, which oversees the vast majority of the state’s high school sports programs, is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Specifically, the lawsuit calls for the state to “cease unlawful discrimination against athletes with disabilities and to adopt policies and procedures to ensure that student athletes with disabilities have full and equal opportunities to compete under IHSA rules and in all IHSA-sponsored and sanctioned events and competitions.”

As Equip for Equality sees it, the IHSA already provides a variety of accommodations to promote equitable competition and that changes to the scoring systems in certain sports, such as track and swimming, to accommodate students with disabilities would be consistent with the IHSA’s policies and the ADA.

“By using different qualifying standards for state championship meets based on gender, school size, and geographic location, IHSA allows for participants at the state championships who are not “the best” in the state,” the lawsuit stated.

Equip for Equality is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.