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Ruling allows teen with autism to play high school football

Chris Caya WBFO News

An Orchard Park teen with autism has received some good news following a ruling from the State Education Commissioner. Jacob Kohler will be allowed to play on the high school football team after an initial ruling declared that he was ineligible.

Meeting with reporters on Friday morning, at Orchard Park High School's athletic field, Kohler said, "I really think it's a great win, honestly. It means a lot to me. I really don't know how to specify it. But, I just wanted to play football. That's all I wanted to do."       

In a story detailed last week by WBFO Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley, Kohler was being denied an opportunity to play football at Orchard Park High School because he was entering his fifth year in high school. Section VI rules dictate that athletes have only four years to participate, but Kohler's family said complications caused by Jacob's autism prevented him from playing as a freshman.

Following a barrage of publicity and lobbying from public officials, including State Senator Tim Kennedy, State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia has reversed that decision. In a brief statement, Elia said her decision  will "permit Jacob Kohler to participate as a member of the Orchard Park Central School District's football team, pending an ultimate determination of the appeal herein."