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Mich. Student With Down Syndrome Fights for Athletic Eligibility

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Michigan's Senate Education Committee unanimously passed a resolution on Wednesday urging the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) to adopt a policy allowing eligibility waivers for students with disabilities in limited circumstances.

The move was prompted by the case of Eric Dompierre, a 19-year-old junior at Ishpeming High School who has Down syndrome. Eric plays on both the football and basketball team at Ishpeming, according to CNN, and "brought the house down" after drilling a three-pointer in the basketball playoffs this past season.

Since then, Eric and his father, Dean, have been battling to keep the younger Dompierre athletically eligible for his senior year.

Under MHSAA rules, students must be under 19 years old to play school sports, unless they turn 19 on or after Sept. 1 (in which case, they can finish out that school year). Age is currently the only rule not subject to waiver under the MHSAA constitution, according to the organization's website.

That's a major problem for Eric, who turned 19 in January. Eric's condition caused him to be held back a grade in elementary school, according to a website set up to rally support for his mission.

According to the Dompierres' website, 23 other state athletic associations already allow eligibility waivers to their maximum age rule in certain circumstances.

The resolution passed by the Senate committee Wednesday contained the sentence, "It seems reasonable that the MHSAA could adopt a policy that balances opportunities for special needs students with the need to protect the integrity of high school sports," and the Dompierres would argue those other 23 state associations might be living proof.

"Something has to be done," Dean testified yesterday at the Senate committee hearing, according to the Associated Press. "A solution is already out there."

Dean has gathered over 90,000 signatures on change.org in support of changing the MHSAA rules to allow exceptions to the age limit for certain disabled students.

"I want to play my senior year if I can," Eric testified to the committee, according to the Detroit Free Press. "I could be a manager, but I want to play. Please let me."

At this point, there's nothing to do but wait. The MHSAA has already turned down two proposals submitted by Dean on behalf of his son, and they're expected to vote on a third on May 6 or 7, according to the Dompierres' website.

Photo: Eric Dompierre, right, talks with his father, Dean Dompierre, after testifying at a state Senate committee hearing on May 2 in Lansing, Mich. Dompierre is supporting an age-limit waiver that would allow his 19-year-old son with Down syndrome to play football and basketball next season. (Al Goldis/AP)

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