Special needs teen banned from wearing varsity letter jacket

Posted: Updated:
By Craig Andres, KSNW

WICHITA, KS -- A Kansas woman says her son was asked to remove his letter jacket at school even though he plays on the special-needs basketball team.

It seems the student, and those who play on non-varsity level teams, are not allowed to have letters at that particular Wichita school

Jolinda Kelley says her adopted special needs son Michael is one of a kind, full of life, and he loves to play basketball. When he was recognized for participating in the sport, Jolinda bought a varsity letter and put that letter on a letter jacket. She was then shocked when he was asked at school to take the jacket off.

"Another parent, from what I had been told, was upset that my son was wearing his letter jacket," Kelley said.

So her son was asked to take the jacket off and was given a girls sweatshirt to wear instead. The family was told that only varsity teams can wear the letter according to East High's policy. 

"We have considered it and our decision was no," said East High principal Ken Thiessen. "That is not appropriate. We believe in our situation because it is not a varsity level competition."

Thiessen says his school decided that varsity letters would be for varsity letter winners as there is no district-wide policy. The family then turned to the district's athletic director Jay Means. He told the family that when he was the athletic director at Northwest High, their policy was to allow special need students to earn letters, just like other athletes. 

After being asked whether the district would consider making that a district-wide policy, Lynn Rogers, a school board member said "I would definitely be willing to look at it and be sure that kids are being treated fairly."

As for Jolinda, she says she understands each school can make the rules, but she wants to see a rule change.

"It's not just my son. It's every student that was out there last night," said Kelley. It's every student that's there on Fridays that plays their hardest and to the best of their capability regardless what that is."