A petition to allow a 5th year Orchard Park senior with autism to play football this fall had garnered 1,629 supporters by Tuesday night, since it was launched six days ago.
Jacob B. Kohler, 18, who was diagnosed with autism as a child and needs a fifth year to graduate, has been ruled ineligible to play by Section VI, which governs Western New York high school sports.
Kohler has exhausted his four years of high school sports eligibility, said Section VI Executive Director Timm Slade. But Kohler and his parents say he wasn't able to play sports during a difficult freshman year when he was dealing with his illness and should be given another year of eligibility.
State Sen. Tim Kennedy launched the petition of State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who could reverse the decision and allow Kohler to play. Kennedy wrote:
All kids should have the same opportunities when it comes to playing sports, and your support will send a strong message to thousands of families with children with autism who wish to participate in school athletics but face numerous obstacles and barriers in doing so. My office is dedicated to doing everything we can to make sure Jake gets to step on that field one last season, and we hope you'll share his story with others to send a message to the Education Department: #LetJacobPlay