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CIF's Ruling on Who Can Play

August 16, 1987

Did the CIF really mean to discriminate against the learning handicapped? Why does CIF hold appeal hearings if there is no chance for an appeal?

At age 8, Gabe Boettcher entered the U.S. from Africa to begin first grade. He had no English skills and had never been in a classroom. Gabe progressed through the Fullerton schools with his class. Any hope of joining classmates of his age was dashed with the discovery of his learning handicap during elementary school.

Now, upon the start of his senior year at Fullerton High School, Gabe exceeds the mandated age limitation for athletic participants. At a recent hearing, the regional CIF officers denied his appeal with the comment that allowing him to participate might set a precedent for all other learning handicapped in a similar situation.

Gabe is willing to compromise in whatever fashion necessary so he may play on a team. He offered to limit his involvement to specific non-contact sports so as to alleviate any insurance liability. Gabe is not looking for scholarship opportunities. He only wants to feel the joy of participation.

His sports activities have been an integral part of Gabe's life. They have given him an opportunity to socialize and make new friends in a foreign county and culture. They have allowed him to gain a strong sense of self worth by providing opportunities for achievement not readily available to him in the academic setting.

I think Gabe should be given a chance. He is caught in a dilemma beyond his control. In the upcoming state appeal hearing the state CIF officials should be willing to review cases on a case-by-case basis. This is a case that deserves special consideration. It's important that Gabe Boettcher be given the same opportunity to enjoy the full benefit of his high school years as his peers.



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