Para and special athletes want athletic points counted in school banner race
Athletic points from all students should be included in provincial championship totals, petition says
Students competing in para and special sports categories should be able to contribute points toward their school's provincial championship banner, says a petition that's headed to the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation.
The petition, which has more than 800 signatures, calls for the end of discriminatory treatment of Nova Scotia student athletes with intellectual or physical disabilities.
A school's overall point score is how the NSSAF determines who wins the provincial banner for each sport and division.
Para and special athletes train and compete just like their able-bodied counterparts but no matter how many medals they win, they can't earn points toward their school banner.
"It's heartbreaking," Quentin Knock, a Grade 12 para athlete at Amherst Regional High School, told CBC's Maritime Noon.
Knock runs track and field, and has won gold medals in the 200 and 800-metre races and shot put in recent years. He said he's mentioned the points problem to an NSSAF official every year since he started track and field, but hasn't seen any changes.
Knock, who is competing in provincials this weekend, said he plans to file a complaint with Human Rights Nova Scotia about the policy.
New sports banner introduced
The federation has attempted to address the issue by creating a new sports banner for schools called the "Chairman's Excellence Award."
The new award will go to the school with the most points across the board in at least two of three NSSAF categories. Those categories are open, para athletes, and special athletes.
NSSAF executive director Stephen Gallant said this is a short-term solution and the NSSAF will work to develop a long-term solution.
"I think, as a short-term solution, it's good," said Knock. "But it doesn't make us equal."
Lana MacEachern, who started the petition, says the solution is as simple as allowing athletes of any ability to earn points in their age division when they compete on behalf of their school.
"I think that the NSSAF is saying that this is a complicated issue when it isn't," said MacEachern, who lives in Caribou River and has a son in Grade 12 who competes in his school's track and field competitions.
She said because her son is able-bodied, she had no idea para and special athletes weren't awarded points the same way.
A Facebook post early this week from Knock's mother prompted her to start the petition.
Because the percentage of para and special athletes in the province is relatively small, it's possible this sort of thing can go unnoticed, MacEachern said.
"Perhaps the awareness just wasn't spreading throughout the greater track and field community," she said. "But it needs to be known by everyone that this is happening."
The rules in Nova Scotia are similar to those in Prince Edward Island. Points earned by para and special athletes at school track and field events don't count toward provincial championship banners.
In New Brunswick, para and special athletes will be awarded points as long as there are at least two athletes competing in the same event.
With files from Maritime Noon