JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. - Football practice has started at Jonesborough Middle School, but one family claims their son was kept off the team for 24 hours because he's in a special education class.
We met with Cindy Freeman as she waited to pick up her son Jake from football practice. "This is a dream for him," Freeman said, "It's all he talks about. This is very very important to him."
Last Thursday Jake was sent home from practice. Freeman claims he was singled out because he has ADHD and is in a behavioral modification class at the middle school. "I'm angry, I'm upset, I'm confused," she said. "I don't understand their concept."
We started making phone calls to the school district on Friday morning after talking to Freeman.
Before we heard back from them, Freeman called us to say she had received a message from Coach Kevin Durham. The message was, "[I] talked to the school this morning. They told me, yes, he can play if I have room on my roster. If he comes, just bring him today, get him suited up. Twenty-five kids came back, 27, another kid was coming, 28. If for some reason we make 30 [players], with the kids who signed up to come, I can't let him play. But go ahead and bring him and I'll dress him out and everything."
We confronted Coach Durham after practice and he told us Jake has the same chance of playing as every other team member.
He explained 38 children tried out at spring practice, but he only had 30 uniforms, so he thought he had to cut players.
Durham told News 5 he's never had more than 27 children come out for the team in the 13 years he's coached that team.
He also said Jake only came to one of four spring practices. We found out school's policy says if a student misses three practices, they can be cut from the team.
Terry Crowe, the middle school's principal, calls it a misunderstanding. "I don't think there was discrimination," Crowe said. "I think it was just miscommunication. The football coach thought something that wasn't true."
Jake was asked back on the team by Friday's evening practice.
Freeman told us it shouldn't have come to this. "If the child wants to play, and if he can meet the criteria, why not let him play?" she asked.
Freeman told us another boy in Jake's special education class was also cut from the football team. Coach Durham told us that child also only attended one of the spring practices.
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