Michigan father fights rule preventing son with Down syndrome from playing sports

More than 6,000 people have signed a popular campaign on Change.org started by the father of a high school student with Down syndrome in Michigan, who will be prevented from participating on his school’s basketball and football teams during his senior year.

Dean Dompierre started the campaign on Change.org after the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) refused to change a rule that forbids students older than 19 years of age from participating in high school athletics. Dean’s son, Eric, will be 20 years old during his senior year, because he started school later due to his disability.

“Eric is who he is today because of sports. He’s never let the fact that he has a handicap be the handicap. He’s as responsible and as physically fit as he is because he’s been able to participate in athletics. I would hate to see that taken away from him,” said Dompierre. “Eric has also been an inspiration to our entire community. I watch him play when he’s on the field or on the court, but I also spend a lot of time watching the crowd because it’s heartwarming to see the unconditional support that they give him.”

Dompierre’s campaign on Change.org is asking the MHSAA to change their rules, and allow students who may have started school later due to physical or intellectual disabilities, to play a full four years of high school sports. This rule change would put Michigan in line with 23 other states, including neighboring Ohio, that allow student athletes who have experienced a hardship due to intellectual or physical disabilities early in life to play for four years in high school.

If the rule is not changed, Dompierre’s son Eric will not be able to participate in high school athletics during his senior year next year.

“Eric has the support of his basketball coach, his football coach, all of his teammates, and even administrators at his high school,” said Dompierre. “Even our high school rivals support Eric. When he’s in the game and makes a basket or kicks an extra point, the crowd just goes wild, and everyone leaves the gym understanding what high school sports is really all about.”

Two weeks ago, a local TV station awarded Eric the “play of the week,” after he hit a three-point shot during a basketball game.

“Dean’s campaign on Change.org has really struck a chord with parents, students, teachers and sports fans, who all want to see Eric play sports during his senior year of high school,” said Mike Jones, deputy campaign director for Change.org. “As thousands mobilize behind his father’s petition, Eric has become an inspiration to student athletes, both in his community and across the country.”

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