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Principal explains decision to disallow varsity jacket for special needs hooper

Sporting News logo Sporting News 3/30/2015 Caroline Sikes, Sporting News
Michael Kelley © Provided by WKRN-TV Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley is a basketball player who happens to have Down syndrome and autism. His story caught headlines last week when the special needs player was told he couldn't wear a varsity letter jacket.

The decision came from Wichita East High School principal Ken Thiessen, stating it wasn't appropriate since Kelley didn't play for the varsity team. Thiessen's decision sparked many comments and there was even a petition created to reconsider the jackets.

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In the wake of the backlash, Thiessen wrote a letter to the community to explain how he came to his conclusion.

As the leader of this school, I understand that taking criticism for my actions and decisions comes with the job. What I can’t accept, however, are the horrible comments from people who have no idea what East High is really all about.  Suggesting that our school doesn’t support and embrace special needs students is simply not reflective or indicative of the culture we have in our building. Our administrators, our teachers and staff, as well as our entire student body value ALL of our students. This is continually demonstrated in our activities, our celebrations, our honors and the daily way our school conducts itself.

For those of you who don’t know East High, please take an opportunity to learn about us before you judge us based on one story that originated approximately a year ago. Our graduates have shaped the history of Wichita for more than 100 years, and our students today give me great faith that our proud East High legacy will continue for years to come.

The letter also states that the Kelley situation originated about a year ago and the basketball player has continued to wear his jacket to school. 


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