Thursday, March 13, 2008

Maryland teen fights for rights of disabled athletes

Tatyana McFadden

The Baltimore Sun reported March 12 that Howard County teen, Tatyana McFadden, is advocating at the Maryland General Assembly for a bill that would allow disabled and non-disabled high school athletes to compete alongside each other.

"No student should have to fight to be accepted in high school," McFadden told a state Senate committee. The bill, she said in The Sun, "is making clear that all students should have the opportunity to be involved in school sports."

"The bill that would require schools to allow athletes with disabilities to play wheelchair basketball or tennis, to swim or to otherwise play sports among themselves or side-by-side with able-bodied students," according to The Sun.

Unfortunately, the Maryland Department of Education is against the bill, saying that because additional employees would be needed in each school system, it could cost as much as $2.8 million statewide.

McFadden, who was born with spina bifida, sued for the right to participate in track with her high school track team. She won two gold medals at a national Paralympic track meet in Greece in 2004.

She is off to college soon, but McFadden said she wants to make sure her younger sister, Hannah, who has a prosthetic leg, has the right to compete in high school.

In my mind, educating and preparing young people for their future -- and athletics is part of that -- is one of the most important duties of the state government through its education department. I realize education is chronically underfunded, but providing for a state's young people should be THE most important thing a state does. How does any state have a future if they don't have well-educated and athletically invigorated young citizens to take on a leadership role?