Michael Kelley: After School Asks Boy With Down Syndrome To Take Off Varsity Letter, Principal Of Rival School Does Something Awesome

Michael Kelley Down Syndrome

Michael Kelley has Down syndrome and plays on his high school’s special needs basketball team. But when the teen’s mother bought Michael a letter jacket and varsity letter, the school’s principal made him take it off, saying he wasn’t a real varsity athlete.

Michael’s story hit national news this week, prompting thousands of people to reach out in support, including an amazing act of kindness from a rival school’s principal.

The incident started when the parent of another athlete at Wichita East high school complained that Kelley was wearing an official varisty letter, which technically he did not earn.

So Michael’s principal, Ken Thiessen, asked that the teen take off the jacket while in school.

“Teachers told the parents they would prefer he not wear the letter on his jacket,” Thiessen told Wichita TV station WKSN.

Thiessen said the school does not award varsity letters for the special needs basketball team, so Michael Kelley would not be allowed to wear his letter.

“We have considered it, and our decision was no,” he said. “We decided that it is not appropriate in our situation because it is not a varsity level competition.”

Since the story of Michael Kelley began hitting national news, many have spoken out in support of the teen with Down syndrome. Some have called on the high school to allow Michael to wear his jacket.

Someone even started a petition on Change.org calling on the district to allow Michael Kelley and other students with Down syndrome or other special needs to wear varsity letters for the teams they play on.

The petition has more than 15,000 signatures.

“I plan on presenting my petition at the BOE meeting in Wichita on Monday,” said the petition’s organizer. “I would like at least 10,000 signatures and we have over 6,000 now. I am beyond proud of the response from our Kansas community and surrounding communities! Thank you to everyone who is supporting! #GiveThemLetters”

Now, even a rival high school’s principal is reaching out. Mark Calvin, principal and athletic director at nearby Santana High School, is speaking out in support of Michael.

“Before he got the letter he was one of the biggest cheerleaders in the school. It was incredible, after he got the letter jacket it just sky rocketed him to another level,” Calvin said.

“We can’t be cookie cutter. We have all kinds of kids with all kinds of different needs and we need to be able to make our rules adjust to meet those needs,” he added.

Mark Calvin made another important gesture for Michael Kelley, sending the boy with Down syndrome an official varsity letter and an important message: “You can be a part of something anywhere you want to.”

[Image via KSN]