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Eric Dompierre, Teen With Down Syndrome, Fights To Play Basketball, Other Sports In Michigan (VIDEO)

By Posted: 04/18/2012 6:59 pm

Eric Dompierre just wants to play basketball, but his age might put him on the bench for his senior year.

Dompierre, who has Down syndrome, has been active in sports since elementary school and has played on both the football and basketball teams at Ishpeming High School in Michigan, CNN reports.

Now, the 19-year-old junior and his family have been taking action against a regulation that bans students who turn 19 before Sept. 1 from participating in sports the following school year. Eric, whose birthday is in January, was held back a grade in kindergarten, making him one year older than his classmates.

Eric's dad, Dean Dompierre, said playing sports has helped build his son's character.

"If [he is] told that he's not allowed to play anymore, I think he's going to lose a lot of that confidence. And that's been a key to his development," Dompierre told the Oklahoman.

The family and school district have put in at least three requests to the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) since December 2010, asking representatives to grant Dompierre a waiver, according to CNN.

The latest request, which was submitted on March 26, will be reviewed in May.

The Oklahoman's Ryan Aber points out that, unlike some states, Michigan's association doesn't have loopholes in their constitution that would allow students like Dompierre to receive an exemption.

While representatives at the MHSAA say they empathize with the family, they're also hesitant that granting one exception will open the flood gates for future requests.

"Our heart goes out to this man and his family. We know it's a difficult decision, and when it hits home, it's hard," Tom Rashid, associate director of the MHSAA, told Fox News. "But there are concerns when you begin to go in this direction."

As of April 18, an online petition on Change.org has garnered more than 82,000 signatures urging the MHSAA to allow Dompierre, as well as other students with disabilities, to play for one year beyond the current limit.

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Filed by Ileana Llorens  |