Speakout!

March 26, 2006

THE ISSUE: --The Maryland Disabilities Law Center has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on behalf of Atholton High School athlete Tatyana McFadden, who uses a wheelchair, to allow her to race simultaneously with nondisabled athletes during high school track and field meets in Howard County. McFadden, born paralyzed from the waist down, is allowed to compete in her team's practices, but the school system requires the sophomore to participate in separate races during official events. Should McFadden be allowed to race with the other athletes?

Let us avoid competitive isolation

I am beginning to wonder if the Howard County public school system is as "child centered" as it attempts to portray. The excessive and compulsive emphasis on testing seems to dominate and drive this system's educational philosophy ... without regard to the physical, emotional or social growth of the child.

Tatyana McFadden has earned the privilege of representing her school as a student athlete. She should not be subjected to competitive isolation, but rather be allowed to compete in her events without regard of physical disability. Appropriate accommodations can easily be addressed to insure that Tatyana receives the competitive respect that she justly deserves.

Mr. [Mark] Blom, the school system's attorney, felt that the McFadden case was simply, and only, an opportunity to "open doors." This rather insensitive response is indicative of one who is unable to recognize the contributions of the many "door openers" that have made a positive impact on this great nation.

Tony Yount

Columbia

Teen should race with her teammates

It is my opinion that Tatyana McFadden should definitely race simultaneously with her teammates, as well as any other handicapped student in Howard County who is proficient in any sport at the level of the "nondisabled" athletes.

This particular young lady seems overly qualified in that regard, and I cannot understand how there could even be a question. Does our public school system feel it is above the Americans with Disabilities Act? Or that the school system has the right to interpret it at any given time to suit its own perceived needs?

The single accommodation I can possibly conceive would be that she be assigned to the outside two lanes, while the runners have the remainder -- simply because of the minor possibility of collision (which could happen to the other girls as well) or the even more minute possibility that the chair might lose a screw or small part under the pressure of a race. That would be the only accommodation I would make, if even that. There is absolutely no reason she cannot race with her team.

I can't even understand what the question is. And who anyone thinks it may hurt? I, personally, am very proud of Tatyana and the Maryland Disability Law Center for having the strength to push this issue. But I am very ashamed that in this county that always claims it has such forward-thinking, progressive schools, that it was even an issue.

We have gotten media attention all over the country over this "story," and I am somewhat ashamed to say I live in a county that could even consider not allowing an athlete to participate in her sport, based on her disability.

Norene Parker

Ellicott City

We want your opinions

THE ISSUE:

The county executive announced a plan last week to purchase the Belmont Conference Center in Elkridge from the Howard Community College Educational Foundation. The county likely will lease the property - which includes a historic manor house and dozens of acres of fields and woods - to the college for continued use as a conference center and for college activities, such as classes in hospitality management. Do you think the county should buy the property? What activities should be allowed or prohibited there?

YOUR VIEW:

Send e-mail responses by Thursday to howard.speakout@baltsun.com. A selection of responses will be published Sunday. Please keep your responses short and include your name, address and telephone number. Addresses and phone numbers will not be published.

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