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IHSA and Attorney General Reach Settlement in Disabled Athlete Litigation

06/26/2015

On June 24, firm client the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced a settlement with the Office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan regarding litigation pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois addressing participation opportunities for student athletes with disabilities in high school athletics.  

Commenting on the settlement, IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said, "This agreement with the Attorney General formalizes the direction the Association has been moving in for several years, and a comparison of the original complaint to today's settlement closely aligns with the Association's original view of the law."  

The IHSA has for many years granted various accommodations to student athletes with disabilities to allow them to compete on their high school team. The IHSA offers 14 Statewide Championship Series for boys and 15 Statewide Championship Series for girls. As part of the settlement agreement, the IHSA will conduct new Combined Team Championships in Swimming & Diving and Track & Field, while maintaining the integrity of all previously conducted State Championships.  

"We have always complied with any applicable laws," said Hickman, "and are excited about the two new State Championship events we will offer, as well as the inaugural road race, which further enhance the Association's mission to provide participation opportunities for high school students in Illinois." 

Heyl Royster attorney Matt Hefflefinger, who represented the IHSA in the litigation and participated in the settlement agreement negotiations, said "We worked tirelessly with the Attorney General's office to arrive at a solution that takes into account what Illinois high schools can realistically achieve while at the same time continuing to provide student athletes with disabilities a wide range of opportunities to compete in high school sports." 

In praising the agreement, Hickman said, "This agreement protects the integrity of competition for able-bodied competitors and athletes with disabilities alike. The Association will maintain its interscholastic programs as they have been conducted for many decades, while expanding opportunities in selected sports with new Combined State Championships in Swimming & Diving and Track & Field."