It is important to acknowledge that Disability Rights and Disability Justice are an integral part of Civil Rights. These rights should be upheld in every aspect of life, including participating in school and youth sports. Lauren Caroline Bush, a student at Blythewood High School, is a competitive cheerleader and takes pride in cheering alongside her teammates. It has come to our attention that the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) has made an attempt to diminish her pride.
Lauren was supposed to cheer with her teammates in an upcoming competition. However, the SCHSL informed her that she would not be allowed to participate because she is a wheelchair user. This decision by SCHSL reflects outdated and discriminatory beliefs about the abilities of athletes with disabilities. Despite being protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Lauren’s rights are being violated by the SCHSL’s biased policies. These policies are being used to discriminate against disabled athletes unfairly.
According to the SCHSL bylaws, section 5 under “Special Conditions Eligibility,” “A. Ordinary cases of ineligibility shall not be considered as coming under the ‘special conditions’ eligibility category. Ordinary cases of ineligibility are defined as those scenarios set forth and provided for in the Constitution or Bylaws and Rules. B. These provisions for special conditions are for cases of ineligibility which involve the existence of special conditions, which may include medical conditions or financial conditions, or in the proper case of a student with a disability.” This and other ambiguous statements are being used in an attempt to give credence to personal bias to make determinations about the abilities of disabled athletes. These blatant and illegal violations will still persist unless we speak up.
People with disabilities are capable. We have the right to participate in recreational sports. We have the right to try out for competitive sports. When we try out and rightfully earn places on competitive teams, we are entitled to the same right to participate as our nondisabled peers.
Laruen’s disability pride will not be snuffed! We are united with Lauren and her right to participate fully in sports, alongside her teammates, disabled and nondisabled. Lauren your disability community is here for you, and we are ready for action and to uplift your voice!