Opinion

School forces special needs boy to remove, return varsity letter jacket; mom fights back

A Kansas mother is outraged after her special-needs son was told by his school to remove a varsity letter jacket she purchased for him.

Jolinda Kelley told KSN TV that her son, Michael, who has Down syndrome, plays basketball on a special-needs team at Wichita East High School and she bought the letter for him after he won an award.

“Another parent, from what I am told, was upset that my son was wearing his letter jacket,” Kelley told the TV station.

A teacher then asked Kelley’s son to remove the jacket and gave him a girl’s sweatshirt to wear in its place.

“Teachers told the parents they would prefer he not wear the letter on his jacket,” school Principal Ken Thiessen told KSN.

The school had considered a measure to allow special-needs students to wear varsity letters but decided against it, Thiessen said.

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Kelley has since complained to the school district, which has no policy on the subject.

“It’s not just my son. It’s every student that was out there last night,” Kelley told KSN. “It’s every student that’s there on Fridays that plays their hardest and to the best of their capability, regardless [of] what that is.”

In a statement, district officials said Michael Kelley wasn’t forced to remove the jacket, just asked to take it off.

“It’s important for the district to recognize all of the students who participate in school activities as representatives of their school,” the statement said. “Students have pride in being a part of the school community. We put priority on creating those opportunities to celebrate.”

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Carmine Sabia

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