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Lawsuit wants sign language interpreter for high school wrestler allowed in more match areas

ROYAL OAK, Mich. — A deaf high school wrestler from suburban Detroit is seeking in a lawsuit filed Thursday for an American Sign Language interpreter to be allowed to relay instructions and strategies from more areas near the wrestling area of the mat.

The law firm Nyman Turkish PC said it sued the Michigan High School Athletic Association, the governing body for the state's high school athletics, on behalf of 18-year-old Ellis Kempf, a student at Royal Oak High School. According to the lawsuit, an MHSAA referee disallowed the interpreter during a match last season.

"We aren't seeking money and he doesn't want an advantage," the student's mother, Elizabeth Kempf, said in a statement. "He just wants to continue using his interpreter so he can understand what his coach wants him to do during matches — that's all."

MHSAA spokesman John Johnson said he can't comment on the specifics of the case, and the association plans to file its responses in court. He said, however, that the rules allow an interpreter in the same area as a coach, which typically is limited to a corner of the mat.

"An interpreter is allowed," Johnson said.

Lawyers for Kempf, the Royal Oak Ravens' captain, said the restriction isn't fair, since he must look to the interpreter but his opponent can hear a coach shouting guidance. They want the interpreter to be allowed in areas where Kempf can see the person more easily.

Kempf, who wrestles in the 152-pound weight class, has been deaf since age 2 due to meningitis. Cochlear implants allow him some hearing, but he can't wear the external components during wrestling matches.

The Associated Press

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