FanDuel - WFBC

August 11, 2011

High School Player with Down Syndrome Disallowed: Brett Bowden, a student with Down syndrome, has been suiting up for the Hobbton (N.C.) High football team. He leads the team onto the field, roots them on from the sidelines and runs a touchdown play after every game. He even scored an actual touchdown once. This year, he's been disallowed because he recently turned 19. "A student must be eligible to be dressed for a contest," said North Carolina High School Athletic Association Commissioner Davis Whitfield. "This State Board of Education policy is one we are not allowed to set aside." More than 50,000 people have joined Let Brett Bowden Play on Facebook.

posted by rcade to football at 11:55 AM - 17 comments

I think I side with the evil bastard faceless bureaucrats on this one. If you let one 19-year-old suit up for a good reason, you open the door to challenges from other 19-year-olds. There are ways Brett can be made a strong part of the team without him being fully suited up.

posted by rcade at 12:03 PM on August 11

I am against rigid rules period. There is no good reason that he can't suit up except the rules are the rules. They make rules like this so that faceless bureaucrats don't need to think to do their jobs.

posted by bperk at 12:10 PM on August 11

There is no good reason that he can't suit up except the rules are the rules. They make rules like this so that faceless bureaucrats don't need to think to do their jobs.

No, they make rules like this because they know that dozens of crazy sports parents would demand that their 19-year-old be allowed to suit up if they didn't.

(on edit:

I am against rigid rules period.

Please replace the irony meter that you just broke.)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:27 PM on August 11

No, they make rules like this because they know that dozens of crazy sports parents would demand that their 19-year-old be allowed to suit up if they didn't.

So what? Parents would ask for an exception. Why is that a problem? Then the administrators would decide on a case by case basis to what extent those exceptions would undermine high school sports. That is better than mindlessly following rules created just as mindlessly.

posted by bperk at 12:51 PM on August 11

I am against rigid rules period.

Please replace the irony meter that you just broke.)

That made me laugh, nice one.

The kid can be a manager, and they can give him a jersey, so I'd let the team take care of him that way.

Every state that I know of has this rule, a player can not turn 20 during the school year. It ensures that kids are not held back two years just for sports...bad enough that many parents hold kids back one year simply for sports. And, it protects 15 and 16 year old kids from having to compete against kids 4 or 5 years older than they are.

posted by dviking at 02:02 PM on August 11

Parents would ask for an exception. Why is that a problem?

You sound like someone who has never had to enforce anything. Deciding everything on a case-by-case basis would gobble up so much time that you'd eventually have to reclaim some of it by enacting -- wait for it -- rules.

posted by rcade at 02:09 PM on August 11

And if you're a public school without hard-and-fast rules, welcome to Lawsuit Ville, pop. You

posted by yerfatma at 02:11 PM on August 11

And, it protects 15 and 16 year old kids from having to compete against kids 4 or 5 years older than they are.

That's the legitimate concern that is behind the rule. In a sport like football, it seems to me that a player who actually wants to play at 19 (or whose parents have decided that he should) is more likely to be a player who wants to go on and play at a higher level -- meaning, more likely to be larger, stronger, harder hitting. And then you put them on the same field as 14 year olds, who have to choose between getting slaughtered and giving up their opportunity to play and develop their skills.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:20 PM on August 11

If the school cares that much there's an easy answer - they can continue letting him play but accept that they will have forfeited all their games. They just need to decide what is more important to them. Seriously this article is annoying the title should be "State Board of Education Follows Its Rules"

posted by G_Web at 04:12 PM on August 11

At our high school, there are a fair number of special needs students like Bowden. (I don't know if that term is appropriate or not, but that's the term they use).

Those students are on a time track in their high school careers that is distinct from and largely unrelated to the typical four year path. It is not uncommon for some of the students to go 6 years. Especially if they find a subject area or activity that totally engages them, such as music or sports.

If they can let a kid sing in vocal ensembles for 6 years, they can let Brett continue to suit up beyond the regular age limit, IMO.

Any parent who watched a student like Brett being granted an exception and then raised hell about their own fully capable kid not being able to get an age waiver is lacking in understanding.

Now if there are roster limits, then I think you create a special non-roster role on the team for the student, especially if he is age waivered, because he would otherwise be keeping an student who merited a spot on the team from having the opportunity to develop as an athlete and participate in the sport. In that case, you would have parent complaints, and those complaints would have a reasonable basis.

posted by beaverboard at 04:38 PM on August 11

And if you're a public school without hard-and-fast rules, welcome to Lawsuit Ville, pop. You

Being vague and leaving everything up to discretion is a better strategy in terms of lawsuits. You sound like someone who has never had to enforce anything. Deciding everything on a case-by-case basis would gobble up so much time that you'd eventually have to reclaim some of it by enacting -- wait for it -- rules.

The vast majority of cases are very easy to decide one way or the other. Then, you have to spend a little bit of time on the gray ones. I think it is worth the effort to ensure fairness for the students. Schools are bastions for this rigid rule, zero tolerance crap. They are worse for it.

posted by bperk at 04:56 PM on August 11

Thankfully, it looks like he's in !

posted by NEPABob at 07:54 PM on August 11

they can continue letting him play but accept that they will have forfeited all their games. They just need to decide what is more important to them.

You really think that's an "easy answer"? Do you think the rest of the kids on the team would agree?

I'm not sure that an easy answer exists to this problem. On one hand, you have a great, inspirational story involving a beloved underdog protagonist. On the other hand, you have a rule which is ostensibly to protect young athletes from unnecessary danger on the playing field. Both sides have an absolutely valid point to the argument, and some poor administrator is forced to either enforce the rules strictly or risk opening up the floodgates to challenges he can't imagine. This is kind of one of those gray areas in life where, whichever answer is chosen, it is both right and wrong.

posted by tahoemoj at 08:51 PM on August 11

Any parent who watched a student like Brett being granted an exception and then raised hell about their own fully capable kid not being able to get an age waiver is lacking in understanding.

No argument there, but what on earth makes you think that there aren't plenty of parents of fully capable kids who lack understanding?

I think what you and bperk aren't getting is that this opens it up to a case-by-case discussion about whether each and every 19 year old will be allowed to play. So what if most cases are easy to decide? You still have to take the time and trouble of deciding them, once you've opened that can of worms. If anyone who wants to challenge any rule is entitled to a hearing and an explanation about why an exception will not be made for them, you wouldn't have any time to have games any more because all your time would be taken up by these pro-am litigators.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:29 PM on August 11

Agreed. Could students be urged slow the pace of their course work (in states where that could be permitted) and wait a year, until they're 16, to begin playing HS sports? Then, they would be 19 for year 4 ... so should they be permitted to play?

Letting one case through, no matter how benevolent, means you're inviting abuses, and parents/coaches will expect to get waivers.

posted by jjzucal at 03:33 PM on August 12

Agreed. Could students be urged slow the pace of their course work (in states where that could be permitted) and wait a year, until they're 16, to begin playing HS sports? Then, they would be 19 for year 4 ... so should they be permitted to play?

In the city in which I live, there used to be something called "readiness" where a 1st grader who was having some difficulty could be placed in the readiness class in order to "catch up" a bit. The child would then start 1st grade the next fall. More than a few parents of potential athletes realized that this would make their kid 19 years old (and if the kid were born in the right month, nearly 20) by the time he graduated, and could give the kid a physical advantage over younger kids. The idea was that if your kid was a standout on the field, he might have a better chance at an athletic scholarship. The program no longer exists, but not because of the abuses; it is the far more common reason of lack of money. I can see why a hard age limit should be in place, but some adjustment could be made for those who are over-age but still have eligibility. Slowing course work in order to physically develop is quite difficult, since far too many school districts practice "social promotion", and even the dumbest of students will be passed to the next grade. Please don't get me started on that subject. If parents are really that interested in getting an athletic scholarship for their kids, there's always the prep school route. Many prep schools will give a ride to promising athletes for a "5th year" of high school, with the expectation that there might be some payback down the road.

posted by Howard_T at 04:02 PM on August 12

It is a well known and well used tactic to delay a kid a year in school simply for sports reasons. And, while I don't have any stats to back this up, I know it far more prevalent than one might think. My son's football team featured both QB's, the starting RB, and two WR's that were all a year older than my son. All were good enough as seniors to get at least partial scholarships, and I seriously doubt that 3 of them would have if they were always playing against kids their own age. Some of those kids were delayed a year when they were teenagers! Dad actually had them switch schools in order to be able to knock them back a year. I know several Dads that held every one of their kids back a year for this reason.

Obviously, this kid does not fit the description of being held back for sports, but it does speak to why schools have to have guidelines.

posted by dviking at 07:35 PM on August 12

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