Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sporting Opportunities at School for Students with Disabilities

The US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, has issued a letter based on a report performed by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) which highlighted that access to, and participation in, extracurricular athletic opportunities provide important health and social benefits to all students, particularly those with disabilities. The letter provides an overview of the obligations of public elementary and secondary schools under Section 504 and the Department’s Section 504 regulations including:
  • an overview of Section 504 requirements
  • informs school districts not to act on stereotypes or generalizations
  • provide equal opportunity for participation
  • offer separate or different extracurricular activities if necessary
You can read the entire letter at the Department of Education

Here is my summary on the letter:
1.  Coaches are not allowed to exclude a student due to a disability based on the coaches stereotype or generalization of how a certain disability presents itself.

2.  Schools must make reasonable modifications.  If aids and services are necessary to ensure an equal opportunity to participate the school district must allow it.  The exception is if the school district can show that doing so would be a fundamental alteration to its program.

3.  Schools do not have to include all students on any team.  But, if the student has the skills to make the team you can not exclude the student based on a disability.  Basically the school has to make reasonable accommodations if necessary for the student to participate. 

4.  If a student with a disability can not participate in the school's extracurricular programs even with modifications, a school district should offer students with disabilities opportunities for athletic activities that are separate or different from those offered to students without disabilities. These athletic opportunities provided by school districts should be supported equally, as with a school district’s other athletic activities.

5.  Recommendations to collaborate to create regional teams, male/female teams or unified sports teams (teams including students with and without disabilities).

Do any of the schools where you work or live pay for extracurricular activities for students with disabilities for those that can not participate on the school team even with modifications? 

Reference:Seth M. Galanter, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. Dear Colleague Letter. Retrieved from the web on 1/28/2013 at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201301-504.html 

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