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High school principal orders athlete with special needs to take off varsity letter jacket

Posted at 10:39 AM, Mar 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-28 10:39:12-04

WICHITA, Kansas -- A Kansas mother is upset with her son's school after the principal asked him to remove the varsity letter jacket she made for him. Michael Kelly plays on his school's basketball team that is made up with students with special needs. His school has a rule that students who play on non-varsity levels teams are not allowed to wear the varsity letter at school.

Jolinda Kelly said she bought her son Michael the varsity letter and put it on a jacket to recognize his participation in the sport. She said she was shocked when she learned the school principal asked Michael to take off the jacket.

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


Michael took off the jacket and was given a girl's sweatshirt to wear the rest of the day. Michael's family was later told only varsity-level athletes were allowed to wear the letter, according to the high school's policy.

"We have considered it [allowing students with special needs to wear a letter] and our decision was no," East High principal Ken Thiessen said. "That is not appropriate, we believe in our situation, because it is not a varsity level competition."

The school's policy does not appear to be a district-wide policy.

"I would definitely be willing to look at it and be sure that kids are being treated fairly," school board member Lynn Rogers said.

Jolinda Kelly said she would like to see the rules at her son's school changed.

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

The matter is expected to be discussed at a school board meeting Monday night.