Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

March 26, 2006

Facts omitted, balance lacking

It is unfortunate that key facts were omitted from the article that appeared in The Sun on March 16 ("Fighting for the right to race with her team"). As a result, the article lacked balance and read as though the less-than-favorable opinions of those interviewed applied specifically to the Howard County public school system.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Howard County public school system is the first school system in Maryland to provide interscholastic track and field events for athletes with disabilities. Our procedures call for track athletes in wheelchairs to be full members of their high school track teams. They practice daily with their teams and travel to meets on the same buses with their teammates. While they compete in separate wheelchair events, any points they earn count toward the team score. They can compete in other track events such as discus and shot put with nondisabled athletes. They can earn varsity letters.

The school system's athletics coordinator has taken a leadership role in encouraging the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletics Association to establish statewide wheelchair track competitions. He has proposed that wheelchair events be added to the regional and state championships. He is dedicated to this effort, feeling it would encourage more students who are in wheelchairs and who have not previously competed to see themselves as athletes. We want to ensure that athletes in wheelchairs can compete across the state, not just in Howard County.

Actions to date demonstrate that the Howard County public school system supports the full involvement of student athletes with disabilities, is a leader in the state in implementing programs, and has taken specific steps to ensure that our programs are inclusive, far beyond what the law requires. We view federal laws that guarantee the civil rights of students with disabilities as a floor, not a ceiling.

Sydney L. Cousin

Superintendent of schools

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