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NYSED Commissioner explains ‘stay’ for Orchard Park football player

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Late last week New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia reversed a decision allowing an 18-year-old Orchard Park teen with autism to temporarily play football. Jacob Kohler will continue to play on the Orchard Park High School varsity team while his case is appealed.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley spoke with Commissioner Elia during an appearance at Daemen College in Amherst Thursday about her decision. 

“The stay included him begin able to suit up and play with his team,” Commissioner Elia said.

Elia was responding to our question about allowing Kohler back on the foot field for the new season. Under Section Six rules, students are only allowed to play four years of sports. Kohler was ineligible this school year because he just started his 5th year of high school. However, Kohler said he never played sports in his freshman year because of due to complications from autism.

Kohler and his family issued an appeal. But in the interim Elia tells WBFO News it's important to ‘balance the rules with what is the best scenario for students’.   

“The issue really now is something that’s in the process. The final determination is in the process and what you are seeing now the student is able to suit up and be on the field with his teammates,” Elia explained.     

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Orchard Park High School football field.

The appeal process can take several months. If Elia didn't offer the ‘stay, the high school football season could have ended before a determination was made on the appeal shutting Kohler out.

“Does this happen often in the state?” asked Buckley. “There are a number of times appeals come in and I think they have to each one of them looked at individually to see what the circumstances are that make the appeal reasonable or not, and that’s what we try to do. That’s one of the reasons it takes a little longer,” Elia responded.

Kohler told reporters last week it was a great win and he just wants to play football.  Kohler and the Orchard Park Quakers play again Friday night in a home conference game against Hutch Tech. 

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