Bureaucracies may be essential to running a complex society, but there are reasons people hate them. Here’s one.
An Orchard Park student, David Gorczynski, may not be able to compete in cross country next school year because state law doesn’t take into account that fact that he lives with disabilities, including an autism spectrum disorder and one leg that is shorter than the other.
Thus, while the 20-year-old student last year received a waiver that allowed him to compete after the age of 19, there is no mechanism to secure a second waiver. No mechanism beyond common sense and human kindness, anyway.
According to the captain of last year’s cross country team, Jacob Eneix, and Gorczynski’s mother, Mary Ellen, David thrives on cross country, even though he comes in last every time.
The team cheers him on as David tolerates conditions he otherwise despises: rain, mud and windbreaker pants, all of which aggravate his sensory issues.
That makes him a winner in our book. He pushes himself. He doesn’t quit. He keeps coming back. He gets to interact with nondisabled classmates. Plainly something in the mix of physical challenge and team support serves his needs well. But the State of New York doesn’t much care.
David, an ungraded student, is still in high school because of his disabilities. The coming school year will be his last.
The team has a no-cut policy and no student has been displaced from the team because of his participation. In competition, the scores of only the fastest runners count, so David’s times don’t affect the team’s standing.
This is a true no-brainer, which is why a bureaucracy can’t get it. To resolve the matter, David’s mother has filed a lawsuit, asking the State Supreme Court to allow her son to compete on the team in the coming school year.
This can’t be that difficult. A boy with challenges most of us can’t imagine wants to run with his team next year. His participation harms no one and benefits many, including the members of his team, who want him there.
Lawmakers are adept at finding their way around fundraising laws; surely there is a way around this one. What is more, the State of New York has been a champion of students with special needs. It shouldn’t abandon this one.