The Justice Department announced yesterday, October 29, 2015, that it filed a complaint and consent decree in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado against the operators of Pikes Peak Wrestling League (PPWL). The Pikes Peak Wrestling League is a youth wrestling league that serves approximately 4,000 children across the state of Colorado. The complaint, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleges that Pikes Peak Youth Sports Association, LLC and Peak Youth Sports Association violated the ADA by failing to modify their policies, practices or procedures to allow a child who has dwarfism to “play down” one age division at the 2014 Colorado State Wrestling Championship.
The child, B.K., joined the wrestling league in the fall of 2013. When he turned 7 in August 2013 he weighed only 34 pounds. His doctor cleared him to wrestle against other children of similar weight and size. Initially, the boy was allowed to wrestle in the 6 and under age division during the regular wrestling season, even though he was 7 years old. Later, B.K.'s parents requested that he be allowed to wrestle in the State Tournament in a lower age class. In the State Tournament, however, there are predetermined age divisions. The 8 and under division has a lowest weight of 45 pounds and the 6 and under division's lowest weight is 37 pounds. Remember, B.K., at age 7, weighed only 34 pounds. Thus, his parents sent an e mail to the league requesting an accommodation under the ADA to allow B.K. to wrestle in the 6 and under division. The parents pointed out that he had a disability, dwarfism, and it would be unsafe for him to wrestle heavier children in the 8 and under division. Their request was denied. The parents filed a complaint with DOJ.
In its investigation the Department of Justice found that the PPWL is a public accommodation under Title III of the ADA and that it did not have a written reasonable accommodation policy.
The consent decree (subject to acceptance by the court) requires the wrestling league to adopt and publicize a disability nondiscrimination policy, including procedures for handling requests to modify policies for wrestlers with disabilities. The league will also conduct training, pay compensatory damages to the child identified in the complaint, and submit periodic reports.
The Complaint can be found at: http://www.ada.gov/pikes_peak/pikes_peak_complaint.html.