Seeking one last chance on the gridiron


Jackson Ayers will never be a star on the football field or even play on a collegiate team.

He just wants to play a little during his senior year of high school.

After a hardship application was rejected by the Georgia High School Association, Patti Ayers of Peachtree City has started a petition drive and hopes to appeal the organization’s decision to waive the eight-semester rule for eligibility in the case of her son, who had a learning disabilities.

When he transferred from the Bedford School to Landmark Christian School and began ninth grade, Jackson went out for football and enjoyed it. Just after the season, because of the difficulties he had transitioning academically, he moved back to eighth grade for the remainder of the year and started as a freshman again the following year.

Because that inaugural season was four years ago, according to GHSA rules he is ineligible to continue. That motivated the hardship application, which was made by the school and which Patti Ayers said was rejected after only 15 minutes was allowed to plead his case. No reason was given to her for the ruling.

“I knew by the tone of the questions that we were going to be denied,” said Patti Ayers. “I looked at my son and could see the hurt and disappointment on his face. To be honest, I was stunned and outraged.  I am still outraged.”

She maintains that neither Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 nor the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were considered when the appeal was denied, and that Jackson’s disabilities were not given any merit in their decision. She also believes that allowing her son to play would fall within the U.S. Supreme Court’s definition of “reasonable accommodations” without adversely affecting any competitive balance or the integrity of league play.

A petition was begun on and as of July 6 it contained 924 signatures. Patti Ayers asked for a letter from Gov. Nathan Deal’s office to the GHSA on her son’s behalf but is not aware of its status. She was told that a similar letter was being mailed at the beginning of this week from U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland’s office.

Upon the advice of an attorney, Patti Ayers is resubmitting the hardship application in her own name rather than that of the school.

While she said the decision to take her struggle public and create the petition was difficult, it has been worth it.

“The comments have been so moving and I never realized how passionate so many people are about this issue,” she said. “I hope to make a change not only with my son, but for all athletes behind Jackson that struggle with learning disabilities.”