WICHITA, Kansas — With only three USD 259 Board of Education meetings left in the remainder of the 2014-2015 school year, time is running out to create a district policy that would give special needs student athletes the chance to earn varsity letters.
It has been more than ten days since Wichita Public Schools board last met, with supporters of Michael Kelley voicing their support for special needs student athletes at East High School and district wide, to have the chance to earn a varsity letter, the same varsity letter other students earn.
At that meeting, the district announced that the school board would not make any decisions about this policy until they hear from the Tri-County League.
On Thursday, April 2, the board for the Tri-County League finalized their recommendations, concerning that possible policy for these student athletes. The board unanimously recommended that all special needs athletes can earn the same varsity letter as their classmates.
According to this Monday’s board meeting agenda, however, the topic is nowhere to be found. Meaning, it could be more of a “waiting game” for Michael Kelley, his family, and their supporters.
“If the policy has been drafted, then why isn’t it being brought in front of the board? Why wait?” asked Jolinda Kelley, Michael’s mother. “There is no time to waste.”
KSN reached out to USD 259 Friday afternoon, and were told that the school board has not formally received the Tri-County League’s recommendation, but looks forward to that report. Officials tell KSN that report will likely be heard during the school board meeting on April 27.
At the last board meeting, March 30, board members said they hope to have a policy in place by the end of the school year.
Including Monday’s upcoming BOE meeting, there are only three board meetings left before the end of the school year.
— Brittany Glas (@BrittanyGlasKSN) April 10, 2015
All things considered, Jolinda Kelley tells KSN News that the outpouring of love and kindness toward her son, Michael, and this cause has been “amazing.”
“I have no words to explain what it was like to have everybody so accepting of him,” said Kelley.
KSN’s Brittany Glas spent Friday evening with the Kelley family and received an exclusive look at the international support Michael Kelley and his family have received since they began this district policy fight.
The Kelley family has received dozens of packages for Michael. Packages that include varsity letters, letter jackets, and special notes meant for the 19-year-old special needs East High School basketball player.
“He has lots and lots of support,” Kelley said as she showed KSN the dining room table.
Jolinda Kelley says the remarkable support the policy movement has received from around the world is evidence of how important it is.
“All life matters,” she said. “They’ve earned it. They’ve earned it, just like all these other people earned these letters.”
Regardless of what happens before the school year’s end, Kelley says she is not going anywhere until a policy is in place.
“I can’t quit,” Kelley said. “It’s not just about one child, one letter, or one school. It’s about equality for everyone.”
FOLLOW THE TIMELINE OF THIS STORY:
- 4/05: Michael Kelley gets special treatment in San Antonio
- 4/02: Tri County League says special needs athletes will earn the same varsity letter
- 4/01: Rhode Island athlete collects varsity letters for Kansas boy with special needs
- 3/30: Mother of special needs athlete holds presser after USD 259 BOE meeting
- 3/30: USD 259 School Board hears from parents about varsity letters for special needs kids
- 3/30: Special needs student letter debate sparks social media uproar
- 3/29: USD 259 Superintendent lays out expectations for Mondays BOE meeting
- 3/29: USD 259 Superintendent talks about alternative sports recognition
- 3/29: East High principal responds to varsity letter controversy
- 3/28: Mom of special needs son fights for change in USD 259 district policy
- 3/28: Chicago Bulls assistant coach supports Michael Kelley
- 3/27: Debate continues over East High letter policy for special needs athletes
- 3/27: Schools reach out to special needs athlete
- 3/27: Local organization says inclusion vital to special needs kids
- 3/27: School district responds to student story
- 3/27: Students create petition for East High student to earn varsity letter
- 3/26: Mom says special needs son at East High told to remove his varsity letter