COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – A federal discrimination lawsuit has been filed against the Colorado High School Activities Association after a referee disqualified a high school athlete during a critical swim meet. The lawsuit states that the issue is the swimmer — Ethan Orr, 16 — was wearing tape over a glucose monitor.
Orr swam all season for Coronado High School in Colorado Springs, but when it came time for the state championship meet, his diabetes became more than just a medical problem.
Orr wears a black tape patch on his left arm while in the pool. It’s covering his glucose monitor which is attached into his body. The patch keeps the monitor from falling off.
“They said ‘You are breaking the rules in the rules book’ and so I wasn’t able to swim,” Orr said.
His mother Amanda Terrell-Orr called it discrimination.
“I was furious that he made it all the way to state and because of his diabetes he was out,” she said.
The monitor tells a pump that he wears to automatically adjust the blood sugar level in his body. If not, he could have a seizure, or faint.
Orr says he was caught off guard.
“I was embarrassed, I was upset, I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
CHSAA rules permit tape to treat a documented medical condition, with a doctor’s note. Orr did not have one.
“I was given the option to take off the glucose monitor or not swim and be disqualified with the entire team,” Orr said.
He was disqualified along with the rest of the relay team. Now he has filed a complaint with the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
Orr and his family want its rules changed, not just for Ethan but all diabetic swimmers.
Ethan attends Manitou Springs High School but swims for Coronado.
CHSSA shared the following response:
August 31, 2021: CHSAA has received requests for comment regarding a complaint filed with the DOJ alleging discrimination on the basis of disability. CHSAA received a copy of the complaint yesterday afternoon and I am reviewing it. It is not our policy to respond to inquiries regarding filed complaints, however, given the misleading and inflammatory statements of the student’s legal counsel, there are certain facts you need to be aware of.
During the 2020-21 state swim championship, a referee noticed the student had a strip of tape on his arm. The referee asked the student if he had the necessary signed medical authorization letter as required under the National Federation of High Schools 2020/21, Rule 3-3-5 that applies to all participants. The rule specifies that tape may be used by a participant to treat a documented medical condition but the referee must be presented with signed documentation from a health care professional that certifies it is safe for the student to participate with the device attached. All coaches were informed of this requirement through multiple CHSAA notices.
The student did not have a signed medical authorization, and the referee advised him that he would not be able to compete in his final event, the 400 free relay. This decision was required by the rules of the NFHS that govern all participants equally and had nothing to do with the student’s disabilities
The referee also informed the coach of the decision. The coach stated that he had other athletes available for the event and the event proceeded with an alternate participant.
Neither the student nor the team were disqualified. The team competed but was
subsequently disqualified for an early takeoff completely unrelated to the matter of the student in question.
Very truly yours,
Alexander Halpern, LLC