Another victory for Snohomish High School football star

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherGrafK5

KING5.com

Posted on February 19, 2013 at 8:44 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 20 at 7:12 AM

Over the last three years, he's become the hometown hero of Snohomish High School.  Ike Ditzenberger is a special needs student turned football star who gained YouTube fame in 2010.  Now, he's back in the spotlight for a different reason.

Ike is almost 20 years old, and like most special needs students, he's been in high school for more than four years.

"Ike is now what he calls a super senior, so he's in his 13th year of school, and he is a special needs boy with down syndrome," said his mother, Kay Ditzenberger.

Video of his first touchdown in October 2010 has been viewed around the world.  Since then, he's been the heart of his school's team.

Because of Ike's age, the current Washington Interscholastic Activities Association rules would make him ineligible to play football next year.

It's something Ike was incredibly disappointed about.  He loves the sport, and his parents say football and wrestling helped him both socially and emotionally.

"He's actually become a completely different person," she said.

Ike's friends and teammates saw that transformation firsthand.  So when a government teacher told them to come up with legislation to pitch to lawmakers in Olympia, they instantly thought of Ike.

"As an assignment in government class they put together a bill and called it the Ike Bill," said Kay.

The 'Ike Act', also known as Senate Bill 5172, would allow him and other special needs students to participate in extracurricular activities for the duration of their time in high school, no matter their age.

Several state lawmakers quickly jumped on board, and that's all it took to catch the attention of the WIAA.

WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese says a change to the state law books isn't' necessary.  Instead, he decided to immediately change the current WIAA policy.  He says Ike will be allowed to play football next year, and the requests of other special needs' students will be reviewed and decided on a case-by-case basis.

Ditzenberger was thrilled when he heard the news.

Still, his mother and a few others plan to continue to push the bill named for her son.

She says it's necessary to protect their basic civil rights.

"I wish this for all special needs children, for all children, regardless of their ability," she said.  "Special needs children should have access to the same resources as other kids."

The concern of the WIAA is that changing the state law would create a slippery slope.  For example, a team might be given a competitive physical advantage if a 21-year-old, high functioning special needs student is on their team.

A statement from WIAA reads:

"Through discussions between the WIAA staff, Snohomish High School students and administration, along with a family member of a special needs student, the Association will on a case-by-case basis waive WIAA rule 18.14.0 - Season Limitations.  The case-by-case review allows the Association to determine a consistent course of action for all waiver requests."

Regardless of what happens, Ike and his friends consider it a victory, because the boy that loves football so very much will get to play another season.


 

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