A Colorado-based youth wrestling league has reached a settlement with the Department of Justice, where it agreed to modify its policies to allow a child with dwarfism to complete in a younger age group with athletes closer to his weight.
“Participating in athletic competition is a formative experience for children across this country, and children with disabilities are entitled to participate equally in youth sports,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, in a news release. “The ADA celebrated its 25th anniversary this year and private entities that operate youth athletics should be well aware of their obligations under the ADA.”
The child, then a 34-pound, 7-year-old, was cleared by his doctor in the fall of 2013 to compete against children of similar weight. During the 2013-14 season, the league allowed him to compete in 3 matches in the 6-and-under division.
However, at the state tournaments, unlike the regular season tournaments, the league sets predetermined weight limits for each age division. For the league’s 8-and-under division, the lowest weight class is 45 pounds and under. For the 6-and-under division, the lowest is 37 pounds and under.
Although the boy’s parents told league officials it would be “physically dangerous” for him to compete in the 8-and-under division – against children more than 10 pounds bigger than him – the league said that division was his only option.
The boy’s parents proceeded to file a complaint with the DOJ. Along with the agreeing to allow the boy to compete in the younger age division, the Consent Decree, announced October 29, requires to league to adopt a nondiscrimination policy, establish a system for handling accommodation requests and provide ADA training to employees.
The U.S. District Court for the District Court of Colorado must still approve the agreement.