Sports Illustrated- A special needs student was asked to remove the varsity letter from the jacket he wore to school, his mother told WKSN TV.
Michael Kelley, a student at Wichita East High School, has Down's Syndrome and autism. Though he is not a member of the varsity basketball team, Kelly partakes in extra-curricular special needs basketball, the station reported.
Michael's mother, Jolinda, told the station that she purchased the letter and placed it on Michael's jacket after he was recognized for his participation.
Ken Thiessen, the principal of the school, said that teachers informed parents that they prefer Kelley not wear the letter on his jacket.
When the station asked Thiessen whether the school would consider giving special needs athletes a varsity letter, he said the school "decided that is not appropriate in our situation because it is not a varsity level competition.”
Every now and then when you are blogging you run into a story that will undoubtedly make you look like an asshole. As many of you know, I really don’t need the help. So when I say that I don’t think someone that is physically disabled should be wearing a varsity letter I say it not to be offensive, but to leave my literary integrity without compromise.
Let’s just say that as much as I love the sport of hockey, I don’t look back at my years playing in high school fondly. I don’t care to discuss the supposed pedigree of the brainless herb (no Brooks) that my teammates called “a coach”. Those 45 minutes drives to practice. Those times I kept my mouth shut when I felt I was being wrong. Those times when I worked my ass off for a group of guys I wasn’t particularly close with. Those were times where I had one thing on my mind…a varsity letter. One of the highest honors, if you want to call it that, that a high school athlete can receive is something that is to be earned, not bought.
Is a stupid felt letter fairly meaningless in the grand scheme of things? Is it’s presence on a jacket that you will probably rot in your closet for the majority of your life fairly arbitrary? Yeah, but it’s the principle in the matter. You can’t buy Oscars, you can’t buy Grammy’s, you can’t buy championships. Hell, on a smaller scale you can’t even buy grades, I don’t care how many times you watch ‘Billy Madison’. Why should a varsity letter, that serves as an ‘award’, or an ‘achievement’ of sorts, be any different?
Maybe I am giving myself too much credit, but I tend not to think of myself as a social pariah. I don’t think that one person, that was dealt a shitty hand in life, wearing a varsity letter in some way cheapens what it represents. My main concern is that it’s a slippery slope. If one parent is allowed to buy their disabled son a varsity letter, doesn’t that open the flood gates to all parents of the physically disabled? For argument’s sake, let’s say it does. Still, not the biggest deal in the world. You think that’s where it ends? You think some JV parent isn’t going to kick right through that line in the sand? You think that you are going to give a Varsity letter to all those that compete on the highest level, and to those that compete on the lowest level, and not face backlash from all those in the middle? You think that with the entitled nature of the youth of America that it’s that easy?
Next thing you know you got 14 year olds running around popping their leather clad collar two days in freshman fencing. It’s anarchy. There is a hierarchy that needs to be maintained. If a varsity coach wants to give a mentally or physically handicapped child an honorary letter then he should have the right to. However, he absolutely shouldn’t be strong armed into doing so. Parents need to learn that the contents of their pocket book and a little bit of public outrage can’t buy what many high school athletes put a lot of time and effort into achieving. Even if it happens to be a stupid letter that will be virtually meaningless two years later.
P.S. Maybe, just maybe, the school could have done a better job of handling this? Taking the jacket off the back of a potentially unstable child in the middle of the day probably isn’t going to make you too many friends when the story goes national. Just a thought. What do I know? Maybe I should just leave it the ‘experts’, after all, they have done such a good job in recent years.
P.P.S. Since you hadddd to ask, yes. Yes, I feel like a terrible person as I add photos to the contents of the blog.