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Decision Number
Leo Sullivan
Cae & Joe Sullivan
Iowa High School Athletic Association
Full Text

Leo Sullivan became a 10th grade student at Maquoketa Valley under open enrollment in the Fall of the 1996-97 school year. He had begun high school as a 9th grader in West Delaware where he was identified as a "504 student." Leo is not a "special educa-tion" student, but he suffers from a profound hearing loss which contributes to a learning disability. While attending West Delaware, Leo participated in cross-country, basketball and track. In an evaluation completed at the Keystone AEA in September 1995, the school psychologist noted in the summary of his report: "I am further pleased to see that he [Leo] is in-volved in extracurricular activities which will assist to enhance his self-esteem."

As a result of Leo's identification as a student needing special accommodations to benefit from his educational program, the West Delaware Community School District developed a "504 Accommoda-tion Plan." This plan detailed specific actions necessary for Leo's teachers to implement to enable him to benefit from his educational program. Most of the suggestions were modifications required to accommodate his hearing loss and dyslexia. The accommodation plan, though fairly detailed and specific, made no mention of Leo's need to participate in athletics to enhance his self-esteem. The high school counselor then assumed responsibility for monitoring Leo's 504 plan and his educational program. In May 1996, the parents and the school administration came to the conclusion that Leo was having problems both educationally and socially. Apparently, Leo was being teased by other students which contributed to his problems with self-esteem. Therefore, his parents and West Delaware school personnel determined that Leo would benefit from a fresh start in a new school.

After transferring to his new high school, the 504 Accommodation Plan that was developed at West Delaware the year before, was adopted for implementation at the Maquoketa Valley school. There was no revision of the plan. The Sullivans testified that they were unaware of any restrictions on Leo's eligibility until they had their first meeting with the principal at Maquoketa Valley.

In the present case, the reasonableness of the open enrollment transfer rule is not being questioned by the Appellant. Neither is there any dispute about the fact that Leo's situation does not come within the purview of exceptions (a) through (i) of the Open Enrollment Transfer Rule. Indeed, Appellants' attorney conceded that the rules were necessary to prevent recruitment problems between schools. Instead, Appellants relied on the provisions of Iowa Code section 282.18(20)(1995) as authority for the Director to waive the ineligibility rule.

The present situation is not appropriate for the exercise of this "subsection 20" power. It would be a different result if the 504 Accommodation Plan specifically addressed the need for Leo to participate in athletic competition to accommodate his disability. There is no mention of athletics in the accommoda-tion plan. Appellants argue that Maquoketa Valley did not put athletics in the 504 plan because they knew it would not be possible for Leo to compete prior to the expiration of 90 days. This does not explain why West Delaware omitted mentioning athletic competition when the 504 plan was initially developed.

That the September 5, 1996, decision of the Board of Control of the Iowa High School Athletic Association, denying eligibility for 90 school days to Appellants' son, Leo Sullivan, was affirmed.