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Athlete asks judge to restore eligibility

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A Start High School student who lost his eligibility to play football because of poor grades has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to get reinstated to the team.

David Ingram, who has a learning disability, claims he flunked an English class last spring because Toledo Public Schools failed to provide a tutor and other accommodations during the final exam that the district makes available for special-needs students.

Judge David Katz, who heard arguments from Mr. Ingram's attorney, Thomas Zraik, and school district attorneys on Tuesday, was expected to issue a decision today.

According to the lawsuit, Mr. Ingram, who is in his last year of high school, flunked the class and dropped his grade-point average for the quarter to below the Ohio High School Athletic Association's minimum of 1.0, which he needed to participate in extracurricular activities.

Mr. Ingram retook the test, receiving a score that was good enough to meet the OHSAA eligibility requirement. But he claimed the English teacher reneged on a promise that if he passed the final exam, he would receive a passing grade for the class.

Theodore Rowen, an attorney representing the school district, said the teacher only allowed Mr. Ingram to retake the English final so that he could earn academic credit for the class and would not have to take it again.

The teacher "made it clear she would not adjust the fourth-quarter grade because David had failed to complete so many assignments," according to documents filed in court.

Mr. Rowen said accommodations are provided to learning-disabled students when they take tests, but the students must ask for the extra measures, which includes taking exams in a resource room with a tutor and extended time.

Mr. Rowen, an attorney with Spengler Nathanson, said Mr. Ingram chose not to ask to have a tutor or extra time when he took the test.

"The real issue is whom the burden is on to get the needed services. The school makes it available each time, but doesn't have the responsibility to recognize who is entitled to it and ask them if they want it," he said.

The 18-year-old West Toledo resident is in his last year of high school. He was a first-team All-City defensive lineman and a second-team district player in 2003.

Mr. Ingram's mother, Nancy Mohler, would not discuss the lawsuit or allegations raised by the district until after Judge Katz renders a decision.

She said colleges have expressed interest in David for his athletic talents, but none has so far offered scholarships and likely won't if he doesn't finish out the season with the team.

"The judge's decision will have a great impact," she said.

A single-mother, she said she works three jobs to support David and his four younger siblings. She said a football scholarship likely would be the only way that her son would receive a college education.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-724-6009.

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