Students Demand Fair Shot At Championships
On August 24, 2021, East End’s clients Alex Brown and Trent Clayton filed a class action complaint against Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Inc. (“PIAA”) seeking an equal opportunity for wheelchair and other para-ambulatory athletes to qualify for and, upon qualification, compete in PIAA’s Track and Field Championships, beginning in 2022.
PIAA regulates interscholastic athletic competition in Pennsylvania. Although PIAA requires member schools to accommodate some Para athletes during the regular season, no process exists for Para athletes to qualify for and, upon qualification, compete in PIAA’s end-of-season Track and Field Championships.
That’s because, according to PIAA, “[t]rack and field events administered by PIAA are intended for participation by able-bodied athletes[,]” only. PIAA’s Equal Opportunity Statement does not even mention “disability.”
Although PIAA claims it “simply is not equipped to offer the broad range of interscholastic competitive opportunities which might be desired or preferred,” at least 27 other state high school associations maintain a wheelchair division for track and field. Of these states, at least 12 also maintain a separate division for para-ambulatory athletes who do not use a wheelchair to compete.
By failing to maintain a process for these student athletes to qualify for and compete at PIAA’s track and field championships, PIAA has denied Alex, Trent, and other students “the values of competition/participation and performance,” which PIAA states should be made available to students “at every conceivable opportunity.”
The action seeks an injunction ordering PIAA to update its able-only policy to ensure wheelchair and other para-ambulatory athletes have the same opportunity as their classmates, beginning in the 2022 season, to qualify for and, upon qualification, compete in PIAA’s high school track and field championships.