On Wednesday, June 24, 2015, the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced a settlement of the Attorney General's lawsuit against the IHSA regarding participation opportunities for athletes with disabilities.
IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman released the following statement recapping the agreement:
“I am proud of the Illinois High School Association's (IHSA) legacy of providing reasonable accommodations for high school students with disabilities. We have always complied with any applicable laws, and are excited about the two new state championship events we will offer, as well as the inaugural road race, which further enhance the Association’s mission to provide participation opportunities for high school students in Illinois.
The IHSA has promoted inclusion of student-athletes with disabilities wherever possible, focusing upon the various benefits of participating in extracurricular athletics or activities, which would include socialization, improved teamwork and leadership skills, as well as fitness.
I commend our Board of Directors, who in 2011, acted on the first-ever request in the Association’s history for separate state final events from Fenwick High School by forming a committee to study the feasibility of those programs. Ultimately, the Board enacted that committee’s recommendation to begin offering separate state final events in cross country, bowling, swimming and track & field in 2012.
This agreement with the Attorney General formalizes the direction the Association has been moving in for several years, and a comparison of the original complaint to today’s settlement closely aligns with the Association’s original view of the law.
Today’s settlement will have no impact on the IHSA’s longstanding policy of providing reasonable accommodations to allow student-athletes with disabilities to be integrated to the maximum extent possible in IHSA sports and activities. Nor will it impact the IHSA’s Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, which celebrated its 12th anniversary in March.
We are appreciative of the guidance provided by the Office of Civil Rights during this process, which reinforced the Association's position to help move the settlement discussions forward. This agreement protects the integrity of competition for able-bodied competitors and athletes with disabilities alike. The Association will maintain its interscholastic programs as they have been conducted for many decades, while expanding opportunities in selected sports with new combined state championships in swimming & diving and track & field. For example, the IHSA will continue its traditional swimming & diving and track & field state final tournaments, with both using their traditional scoring formats to determine the state champions. Additionally, a new scoring system will award trophies to teams in both sports based on the combined scoring of its able-bodied and disabled state final qualifiers.
The IHSA will continue to consistently promote and broaden the opportunities for student-athletes with disabilities. We are excited not only for our past efforts, but also of those still to come.”