WICHITA, Kansas – The Wichita School District USD 259 has voted unanimously, 6-0 to award special needs athletes a varsity letter.
The Tri-County League for special needs athletes consists of 230 athletes and cheerleaders from 11 different schools.
This year the Tri-County League has formed a board and developed a handbook which establishes a criteria for allowing student athletes to qualify for a letter for their schools.
The Tri-County League board is made up of all but one current or former school employees.
The league presented their case and their handbook to the Wichita Board of Education on Monday evening.
Regarding giving varsity letters to the athletes, league board member Marty Rothwell stated the athletes play in a league just like everybody else, they represent their school and they learn how to win and lose together.
Sheril Logan the Wichita Board of Education President told the league board that the handbook was impressive and being able to give students the chance to earn a letter is excellent.
The public was given the chance to speak on the matter.
Jolinda Kelley, Michael’s mom, sparked the national discussion on whether special needs athletes should be able to receive the same letter as other athletes.
“As my shirt says give them letters, I’m asking you give them the letters they’ve earned,” said Kelley.
Jolinda’s daughter, Mikayla, also expressed strong words to the board.
VIDEO | See Mikayla address the school board | Read her transcript
“Teamwork, sportsmanship, overcoming adversity, and accountability in addition to support student achievement, if that last part sounds familiar it’s because I took it directly from the USD 259 website, do you mean it?” said Mikayla, Jolinda’s daughter.
The public comments were enough to sway the school board into taking action.
“I would move we would accept the report from Tri-County and expect those rules to be what we follow going forward,” said Lynn Rogers, USD 259 Board Member.
That’s when the board made the motion to vote and accepted the league’s proposal unanimously.
It came as a sigh of relief for Kelley.
“I’m thrilled, this is what I’ve been fighting for a year,” said Kelley.
As well as Tri-County League board members.
“I’m glad that’s over and it’s not just over for one family and one league, but it’s over for the community,” said Marty Rothwell, Tri-County League Board Member.
As for Kelley, she expressed her hope for what the future holds now that the recommendation has passed.
“That all of those students have a jacket, I would love to see all of them walk in next year with their jacket on, ” said Kelley.
League Board Member Bryan Wilson addressed the school board after the recommendation was passed.
Wilson says the league will retroactively go back and award letters to any student that is currently a part of the league that has met the criteria to earn a letter.
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