By David Kvidahl0 for STLToday
Katie Ladlie is not the first para-athlete from Missouri.
She is the first to take her case to court.
Ladlie, 17, will be a senior at Troy Buchanan High School in August. She suffered from a rare disease known as genuine diffuse phlebectasia of Bockenheimer. The disease was so painful she chose to have her left leg amputated above the knee at age 13 for the best quality of life.
Since the amputation, Ladlie has embraced a variety of athletic activities. But the one that means the most to her is track. She uses a specialized racing wheelchair to compete in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races. She has done so since her freshman year. Only she has not been allowed to compete as a full member of Troy’s track and field team under guidelines set by the Missouri State High School Activities Association.
MSHSAA did not allow para-athletes the chance to compete in a district, sectional or state meet this spring. Ladlie can compete in regular-season meets in an exhibition capacity. She cannot score points for Troy.
Katie’s father, Jim Ladlie, hired Amanda Anthony from Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services to represent Katie. Anthony filed a lawsuit April 24 in the Eastern District Court of Missouri against MSHSAA’s Board of Directors. The suit alleges Katie’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act were violated. MSHSAA was served with the suit in May.
“I truly think they’re trying to protect their process and I can understand that. At the same time (MSHSAA’s) mission statement says, ‘We’re here to make this work for kids,’ and they’re not doing it for her,” Jim said. “Let’s get in a room and figure this out. We didn’t want to push it to a lawsuit, but they said no.”
Article II of the ADA states: “State and local governments may not refuse to allow a person with a disability to participate in a service, program, or activity simply because the person has a disability.” It goes on to state that public entities include “any state or local government and any of its departments, agencies, or other instrumentalities.”
The Eastern District Court ruled in 1994 in Pottgen vs. MSHSAA that MSHSAA is a public entity.
“MSHSAA was created by and funded by Missouri secondary schools, primarily public schools and its Board members are secondary school superintendents or principals,” the court wrote. “The schools have delegated to MSHSAA the responsibility of supervising and regulating interscholastic activities including determining which students are eligible to compete in such activities. The Court concludes that MSHSAA is an instrumentality of a State or local government and is thus a ‘public entity’ subject to the provisions of the ADA.”
MSHSAA allowed para-athletes to compete this spring in the 100 and 400 as exhibition events. After the spring season, the track and field advisory committee suggested the MSHSAA Board of Directors expand para-athlete track and field events to include the 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200, shot put, discus and javelin. These events will be contested at the state meet as an exhibition next spring.
“Those would still be exhibition events and then review it after next year for the 2017 championships for them to become scoring events,” MSHSAA spokesperson Jason West said.
MSHSAA would divide para-athletes into large and small schools and they would compete for state championships.
The athletes would qualify for the state meet based on performances during the season, not in district and sectional postseason meets.
“They would be exhibition events at next year’s championships based on a top 16 from a performance list,” West said. “Instead of going through districts and sectionals, it would be like what we do with swimming. You make a certain time within the top 16 qualifiers, if you hit that mark, you’d advance on to state.”