LANSING, Mich.— State Sen. Tom Casperson thanked the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) for considering a change that would allow a specific and limited exception to its age-eligibility rule.
Casperson, the author of a Senate resolution calling on the MHSAA to make the change, said he was “excited and grateful” to hear the news.
“The MHSAA has shown the same type of leadership today as it has shown historically,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “I was especially pleased to see the strong statement that the association issued with its announcement that it ‘does not advance proposals it does not want the membership to support,’ and that an affirmative vote by schools is being specifically requested.”
The need for the rule change is highlighted by the situation of Eric Dompierre, a junior at Ishpeming High School who has Down syndrome, which led to his being held back in junior kindergarten and first grade. Playing sports in school has helped build Eric’s self-esteem, self-confidence and identity—lessons that often cannot be learned elsewhere, Casperson said.
Senate Resolution 145, sponsored by Casperson, calls on the MHSAA to adopt a policy that allows an age-eligibility waiver in certain cases. Michigan students currently cannot compete in high school sports if they are older than 19 before September 1.
Last week Eric Dompierre and his father Dean testified in a Senate committee in support of SR 145.
“Like the Dompierres, I am eager to see the specifics of the MHSAA proposal and hope the association will make the specifics available to the family and the Legislature immediately,” Casperson said. “However, I am confident that the association has struck the right balance for the state, ensuring that athletes with certain, specific disabilities can participate in their senior year, while ensuring the integrity of high school athletics.
“While this decision is just the first step forward to ensure equal opportunity for all students, it is a good first step. We look forward to the MHSAA continuing to lead all on this issue so that Michigan becomes the 24th state with a sensible policy that balances the integrity of high school athletics with the special needs of students like Eric.”