[UPDATE: Commenters suggest that, according to other press accounts, the wheelchair-bound student is simply allowed to run at the same time as the others, but not in competition with them; I'm off to teach now, but I hope to look into this further — that would raise less serious problems than requiring that she be allowed to compete.]
[FURTHER UPDATE: Press accounts and the accounts in the comments, including references to the injunction, are ambiguous. I'm reminded again of something I noted in the post, but should have acted on rather than just noting — be careful relying on a press account of a court order, and wait instead, if possible, until you can see the court order. I still can't find it online, but I'm trying to track it down; in the meantime, if anyone has the text of the order, please e-mail it to me at volokh at law.ucla.edu. Thanks!] [STILL FURTHER UPDATE: Got the order and some supporting documents, hope to get to the bottom of this soon.]
A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction against a school district that will allow a wheelchair athlete to run at track events at the same time as her able-bodied teammates. [EV: Other press accounts make clear that "run" here means "ride a wheelchair."]
Tatyana McFadden, 16, won two medals at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens and is a student at Atholton High School in Columbia. The Howard County school system had allowed her to practice with the track team, but ruled she must compete in separate wheelchair events.
That meant she mostly competes by herself ....
But on Monday, U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis granted McFadden's request for a preliminary injunction against the school system ....
McFadden's claims were based on the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits exclusion of persons with disabilities from programs and activities that receive federal funds, the law center said....
I'm not an expert on the Rehabilitation Act (or the Americans With Disabilities Act, which was involved in the Casey Martin case); and I couldn't find the opinion on LEXIS and WESTLAW yet, so I should issue the usual caution about the possible errors in press accounts.
Nonetheless, how can it make sense to have wheelchair racers racing against foot racers? Even if Martin was rightly decided, and the requirement that one walk rather than riding from hole to hole while playing golf isn't really essential to golf, surely the requirement that one run rather than riding is essential to racing, no? You wouldn't have foot racers racing against bicyclists, unicyclists, or swimmers; these are just different sports. And if the response is that it's logically impossible to tell whether they're different sports or not, then that cuts in favor of the dissent in Martin, and against any disability law interference with the rules established by sporting event organizers.
Thanks to Tom Elia (The New Editor) for the pointer.