Schools Must Provide Sports to Disabled Students

basketball netThe United States Department of Education has announced that schools must give disabled students the chance to compete in extracurricular sports alongside their able-bodied classmates. This is part of the guidelines that were issued this week.

The Department of Education has announced new guidelines this week. Schools are required to provide students who are disabled with the chance to compete in extracurricular sports alongside their able-bodied classmates. Or, if this is not possible, then schools must provide disabled students with their own sports programs.

Reasonable modifications must be made in order to accommodate students who have disabilities. One example that has been given is the use of a laser, instead of a starter pistol, so that students who are deaf can compete in track events. It could mean removing the rule of a “two hand touch” at swim meets so that students who do not have two hands can compete.

The United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, wrote a blog about this on the Department of Education website. In part, he said:

Today, ED’s Office for Civil Rights has released guidance that clarifies existing legal obligations of schools to provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate alongside their peers in after-school athletics and clubs. We make it clear that schools may not exclude students who have an intellectual, developmental, physical, or any other disability from trying out and playing on a team if they are otherwise qualified.

Reuters notes that the 1973 Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by federal agencies. That includes public education.

The directive from the United States Department of Education came after a report from the Government Accountability Office. The report found that disabled students were not being given the same opportunity to participate in school sports. The Government Accountability Offices recommended that the Department of Education clarify and communicate to schools their responsibilities.

There are those who are opposed to these guidelines. Michael J. Petrilli, of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, wrote a blog titled “The Obama Administration invents a right to wheelchair basketball”. A pop-up from the blog says:

This mandate potentially puts school districts on the hook for billions of dollars in new spending.

He suggests that legislators should be the ones to decide if the guidelines are important “and appropriate funds is they decide that wheelchair basketball and the like is a key priority”.

Image by Steve Johnson on Flickr