Too Special for Special Olympics? Group Bans Girl With Service Dog

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"Special Olympics wouldn't allow her on the track. But she participated in a field event. She came home with a gold medal in the softball throw. She wore the medal for weeks. She loved the experience," said Janice Youngwith.

Jenny's mother said it was a difficult decision to sue Special Olympics and Community High School District 94 in Chicago's far western suburbs, but she believed she had exhausted all her options.

"We were so excited the Special Olympics had come to her school. We don't want to see them go. I want this resolved so she can get back on the court," said Janice Youngwith.

"Special Olympics should be able to accommodate someone with special needs. If she doesn't fit in there, where does she fit in?" she asked.

The Youngswiths sought the help of Equip for Equality, a disability rights group based in Illinois and filed a federal suit against Special Olympics and the school district.

Jenny's lawyer, Barry Taylor who is the legal advocacy director for Equip for Equality, said the group filed a suit under the Americans with Disability Act and state law. The school district and Special Olympics Illinois, he said, denied her the opportunity to compete because of her disability and use of oxygen and a service animal.

"In all respects," reads the lawsuit, "[Jenny] Youngwith is eligible and qualified to fully and safely participate in the SOI and School District basketball and sports programs with or without reasonable modifications and/or accommodations."

Taylor said a special Olympian in Montana is allowed to play with oxygen tanks contained in a backpack.

"The main thing is to get her a chance to play like everyone else. All she wants is to play," he said.

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