Several panels appeared today before an Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Ad-Hoc committee as a part of the association’s ongoing review of opportunities for student-athletes with disabilities.
Among the panelists were parents and representatives from the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Agency, World Sport Chicago, Special Olympics, the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, school districts and regional special recreation associations.
While student-athletes with disabilities have long competed in IHSA events, they are now exploring opportunities at the state championship level.
“We all represent different perspectives and voices,” said panelist Teri Ehrenhardt, president of the Eureka School Board and mother of a former IHSA student-athlete with Down syndrome. “But one thing we all agree on is the importance of competitive student athletics. My son Kellen participated in cross country and track alongside his teammates and has since returned after graduation to help coach several student sports. His experiences have been invaluable, and continue today. We are both grateful that the IHSA is facilitating this important discussion.”
The committee also heard from Valerie Fung, a current student-athlete from Niles West in Skokie, Karson Milsteadt, a current student-athlete with a prosthetic leg who competes on the East Peoria High School baseball team, and Matthew Juskie, a non-sighted golfer from Lincoln-Way North in Frankfort.
“We set out to facilitate a thoughtful and inclusive discussion about participation opportunities while providing a meaningful experience for all our student-athlete competitors,” said Dan Klett, a principal at Wauconda High School, a member of the IHSA Board of Directors and the Ad-Hoc committee’s chair. “Today’s panels provided us with diverse insight and perspective that will help us ensure Illinois is a leader in providing opportunities for student-athletes with disabilities.”
The IHSA has already begun to survey its nearly 800 member schools to better understand the needs of its members and to begin to develop a census of student-athletes with disabilities. Based on its review, the Ad-hoc committee will prepare recommendations to the IHSA Board to explore opportunities to incorporate student-athletes with disabilities at the state championship level.
The committee is expected to report back to the IHSA Board of Directors by its June 11 meeting.