February 19, 2013
By Julie E. Lewis
On January 25, 2013, a judge struck down the temporary order that granted a high-school senior a fifth year of eligibility. Judge Leinenweber ruled that Matthew Lyon of Gordon Tech College Prep was ineligible to continue wrestling because he had already done so for four years. On January 11, 2013, Judge Darrah had granted a temporary order allowing Lyon to continue wrestling, holding that there are instances where student athletes with disabilities must be reasonably accommodated under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by waiving eligibility Illinois High School Association (“IHSA”) rules. Lyon had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) in grade school and educated pursuant to an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) since that time. He struggled academically and had left his previous high school in California at the mid-year point and then re-enrolled in the same grade upon moving to Illinois.
In his decision, Judge Leinenweber noted that if Lyon had dropped out of school for an entire year, as opposed to leaving his previous high school in California at the mid-year point, Lyon may have been able to wrestle today. That ruling created the possibility that an athlete with a season-ending injury could drop out of high school for a year in order to preserve eligibility. To prevent that from happening, IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said the IHSA’s rules will be amended in July so that a student’s four years of eligibility will run like a ticking clock; eligibility will expire four years after a student’s freshman year begins, regardless of how many days he or she spends in a classroom or on a team.
Lyon did have the opportunity to compete one last time in the 14 days between the two rulings. If you have questions in regard to the Americans with Disabilities Act or students with disabilities, please contact a Scariano, Himes & Petrarca attorney.