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Disabled high schooler calls 'foul' on Field Day discrimination

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.






High school tries to discriminate against disabled kids for Field Day

Jake Wesley isn't your everyday kid.

The 14-year-old might not have the use of his legs, but what he has lost in mobility, the high schooler more than makes up for in heart. Jake has a genetic disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which will continue to weaken his muscles over time.

So when Jake's Pennsylvania high school sent him and 60 of his classmates letters explaining they were "medically exempt" from the school annual Field Day and that there would be "disciplinary consequences" if they participated, Jake knew he had to do something.

"It wasn't fair," Jake said. "I don't think people in wheelchairs or with any disease should be excluded from activities."

The letter itself is so unbelievably tone-deaf you have to wonder if it's some sort of joke. First, the letter informs the student they cannot participate in any of the athletic activities associated with the school's Field Day.

"Your child is welcome to serve as a Field Day judge, score keeper or in some other non-active capacity on Field Day."

Gee, thanks. Don't you think school ought to be a place that creates an environment where all kids can participate, not a place that goes out of its way to make disabled kids feel unaccepted and left out?

And if that wasn't ridiculous enough, the "medically exempt" students are told in the letter to report to the nurse's office the morning of Field Day and get a red wristband, so they can be further isolated from the other kids by school staff at a convenient glance.

Are these school administrators kidding? Actually, it doesn't look like it. And it gets worse.

"If a medically exempt student a) removes the wristband or b) is identified as participating actively in a Field Day event, he/she will be subject to disciplinary consequences consistent with BCTHS students discipline policy."

Jake wanted people to know how his school was treating students with disabilities, so he reached out to advocacy groups for people with disabilities.

"I believe this is discrimination," Jake tweeted.

Yeah, me too. And so did a lot of other people. In fact, Bucks County Technical High School got so much heat after Jake publicized the letter, the school reversed its policy and issued a full apology.

"He's always been a strong advocate for himself and for other kids with disabilities," Jake's father, Keith, told a local news station. "I'm very proud. Yeah, he's the man."

Agreed.

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