Blog: Football Tryout Denied; Discrimination Alleged | Athletic Business

Blog: Football Tryout Denied; Discrimination Alleged

The Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law July 26, 1990, was intended "to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities." In order to do this, the ADA requires public entities to consider whether reasonable accommodations could be made to remove any barriers to participation created by a person's disability. Unfortunately, 20 years after its passage, individuals with disabilities are still being discriminated against and denied equal opportunities.

For example, in August, Connor Aldasch, a 14-year-old sophomore from Fulton, N.Y., was denied the opportunity to try out for the G. Ray Bodley High School varsity football team. Even though Aldasch, who suffers from Tourette syndrome, is captain of the junior varsity football team and reportedly had the support of two assistant coaches, Mike Conners, the varsity coach, overruled them. When asked why Aldasch wasn't getting a tryout, Conners reportedly responded, "I already have three or four disabled kids on my team. How many am I supposed to allow on the team?"

The Fulton City School District has received three formal complaints from parent Mark Aldasch Sr., alleging that the district violated its policies and that the coach and athletic director have harassed him since the first complaint was filed. For its part, the school district conducted an investigation and found that none of the district's employees had violated school policies with regard to Connor Aldasch - in fact, the district says, football team procedures have been consistently followed, with varsity sports reserved for those in 11th and 12th grades. There is no rule stating that younger students must be given a tryout, the district says. (There also appears to be no written policy on varsity sports being reserved for upperclassmen.)

Nevertheless, should Aldasch sue the school for discrimination - as of this writing, his intention was to get his son a tryout, not a trial - the district's position will be difficult to defend. If ADA were invoked, the case would hinge on the concept of "reasonable accommodation." If Aldasch was given the opportunity to try out for the varsity football team, and after reasonable accommodations were made for his disability he was deemed not good enough to make the team, or it was determined that his participation posed a danger to other athletes, the coach could then keep him off the team. As it is, however, and in the light of remarks attributed to the coach, it seems that the coach and school could be in violation of the spirit if not the letter of the law.

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