Why Schools Must Provide Sports to Disabled Students

basketball netThe Department of Education announced that schools must give disabled students the chance to compete in sports along side able-bodied classmates. One wouldn’t think this would be controversial, and yet, it is for some. Here are some things parents can say when someone argues against the idea of having students who are disabled participate in sports.

Recently, Arne Duncan, the United States Secretary of Education, wrote a blog on the Department of Education website. It clarified the requirement that schools must provide sports to disabled students. Somehow, this has become a topic of controversy for some people. Here are some facts parents of children who have disabilities can use to counter arguments against the requirement.

“The Obama Administration invented a right to wheelchair basketball.”
That is almost the exact wording in a title of a blog post on the Thomas B. Fordham Institute website. This viewpoint is incorrect.

The requirement for schools to provide sports for students who are disabled comes from the Rehabilitation Act, which Congress passed in 1973. The clarification has been issued because many schools were not complying with the Act because they felt the rules were unclear. In other words, this is not a new right. It something that schools should have been doing since 1973.

“This will cost schools too much money.”
Some people have gotten the misguided idea that the requirement to offer sports to students who are disabled means that all schools will have to set up separate teams that are made up of only students who are disabled. That’s incorrect.

The requirement means that schools need to work on allowing students who are disabled to have the same opportunity to compete for a spot on a school team as do the students who are not disabled. The purpose is to have teams that are made up of skilled players – regardless of if the players are able-bodied or disabled.

“This will take opportunities away from my (able-bodied) child.”
Parents who express this view are of the mistaken impression that the requirement means all schools must spend money to make disabled-only sports teams for every sport the school offers. If so, then it could mean the school has to spread its already small budget for sports even thinner.

However, since that is not what the requirement is asking for, their argument is invalid. Their child will not be harmed by the inclusion of students who have disabilities into their school’s sports programs.

Image by Eduards Pulks on Flickr