Immigrant banned from high school football team

October 12, 2012 1:39:16 PM PDT
Although he helps out at practice for the Dewitt Clinton High School team, 19-year-old Ashton McKenzie is banned from playing football.

"This could have been a year for me to go to college. I have a lot of colleges from all over come look at me. But I can't do what I want to do because I can't play football," said Ashton McKenzie, a student athlete.

Ashton was crucial to his high school team.

"He played fullback for us, he also played inside linebacker, he was the best punter in the league, kick-off guy, whatever we needed he was able to do it," said Howard Langley, Dewitt Clinton coach.

Ashton immigrated to New York with his family, from Jamaica, in 2002.

He "aged-out" of football eligibility, because he was twice forced to repeat third grade, after failing exams in English Language Arts.

"When he was In Jamaica, he wasn't speaking English, mostly, he was speaking Patois, which is a combination of several African languages and English, and so he wasn't understanding the teachers," said Bernard DuFresne, of Advocates for Children.

Ashton is now represented by the not-for-profit, Advocates for Children, which argued for a waiver from the public school athletic league.

They told officials that Ashton was unfairly held back in third grade.

"And according to the chancellors regulations at the time, as an English language learner, he should have been exempt from taking the English Language Arts exam," DuFresne said.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, for the P.S.A.L., said, "Safety is a top priority in the PSAL, and for safety reasons, we do not waive the age eligibility rule. We set age limits because it could be dangerous, for example, for a 19-year-old student to tackle a 16- or 17-year-old student."

"Somebody tells you that you can't play, it hurts," McKenzie said.

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