Jordan wrestler an example of what U.S. Department of Education hopes to accomplish with 'landmark' directive
"Sometimes we have people who don't have a 504 accommodation, but we've always tried to be compliant with federal law," he said. "You can't get a 504 that insists you are on the team. What we're required to do is provide the opportunity."
Van Wagoner called the directive "a great thing" but said the law has really always required this.
The requirements of federal law never entered into Babinski's decision, nor those of other coaches at the school. Alex's teacher, Heather Weiler, rattles off multiple students who've participated in everything from swimming to track.
Babinski said it isn't just Jordan High that wants to include students society tends to "leave by the wayside."
"Every school we've asked (to accommodate Alex) has bent over backwards to make it work," said Babinski. "We've never had anyone say no. It takes a little getting used to. Sometimes they talk out loud when coach is talking, but we help them develop some skills and discipline."
Weiler said teachers and parents can give students advice or guidance, but real socialization takes place with peers.
"I can say, 'chew with your mouth closed,' and he may not listen," she said. "But if a friend says, 'Dude, I can see everything in your mouth!' it helps them learn better behavior."
The National Federation of High Schools held a conference call with Seth Galanter, deputy secretary of education, Friday. That call led to the NFHS issuing a memo that emphasized five points, including telling athletic directors they do not need to change the nature of the game in trying to accommodate disabled students.
Natalie Maughan said that's not what most parents of disabled students want.
"I don't want (his participation) to take away form the other students," she said. "It's a very tough balancing act. Schools are already asked to do a lot of balancing. Teachers are asked to do a lot — with a lack of funding."
Marc Hunter, Jordan's athletic director and president of the Utah Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, said most schools operate on the assumption that "anything that allows kids to participate is a good thing."
He said this isn't a new idea, but it does raise questions about what lengths schools will now be required to go in providing opportunities.
"I think it offers more questions that answers at this point," Hunter said. "We're in the kid business. Who in their right mind doesn't want kids to have an equal chance to participate? But there are also questions. Is it as monumental as Title IX? Do we have to provide adaptive equivalent in every sport? We're not sure at this point."
Natalie Maughan isn't sure what the future will hold for Alex, but she's grateful that for the first time he is enjoying school. His experience has exceeded her expectations.
"He has something to be proud of now," she said. "It isn't just Mom getting exercise for him. He was actually able to wrestle during meets and he lost one and won five. He was given the win, but the other opponents were very kind, and they made him earn it."
She recalled through tears how she watched him celebrate his first victory on a wrestling mat.
"I cried. He was elated," said Maughan. "He called all of his brothers and sisters. He called his birth father. He called everyone and told them, 'I won!' He was very excited."
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