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White House requires school athletics for disabled

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Says changes are necessary to level the playing field

In a sweeping move that will affect all American schools, the Obama administration has told districts they must offer students with disabilities the same sports opportunities as other children.

Schools now must include disabled students in existing athletic programs or provide them with equal alternatives. The directive is a huge victory for disability-rights advocates and it immediately drew praise from many in the education sector. But others fear that the new requirements will blow up school district budgets at a time when few have money to spare.

The federal government argues the new rule is necessary to level the playing field for all U.S. children.

“Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

The move comes just after the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark law that required schools and colleges to offer equal athletic opportunities to women. Unlike Title IX, however, the Education Department’s latest “guidance” to school districts isn’t technically a new law. Rather, it’s a new interpretation of the existing Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prevents discrimination against disabled students.

While the new guidance does not require disabled students be allowed entry into any sports program they choose, it does require schools to make adjustments to how they run their athletic teams. For example, school track teams must use a “visual cue” alongside a starter pistol so children with hearing impairments can run and not be at a disadvantage.

The guidance likely will lead to more schools offering wheelchair basketball or similar programs to disabled students.

“It’s going to open up a whole new door of opportunity to our nation’s school children with disabilities,” said Bev Vaughn, executive director of the nonprofit American Association of Adapted Sports Programs.

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, also applauded the move.

“All students have the human and civil right to a quality public education with equal access that develops their potential, independence and character,” the labor group said in a statement.

The guidance has its roots in a 2010 study by the Government Accountability Office that found students with disabilities participate in sports at much lower rates. Supporters of the Education Department’s new policy acknowledge that fixing that gap will be difficult.

“Is it easy? No,” said Brad Hedrick, director of disability services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Hall of Famer in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. “But it is feasible and possible that a meaningful and viable programming can be created.”

The Education Department has given no firm timetable for when districts must comply with the guidance. It’s also unclear whether federal funding will be provided to states and schools, or whether they’ll be required to fund additional programs or modify existing ones on their own dime.

Critics believe that the idea, while noble, may amount to yet another unfunded federal mandate.

“This is a worthy area for discussion and policymaking, but the [government] needs to tread lightly here because of the potentially complicated and expensive ways this guidance could be interpreted,” said Michael J. Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank.

Story Continues →



by on Jan. 25, 2013 at 7:23 AM
Replies (41-50):
Ms.KitKat
by Platinum Member on Jan. 25, 2013 at 6:47 PM

 This is a victory for the differently - abled!!!!! My children's schools have been doing this for years and years! And about 10 years ago now, my town's recreation dept ha developed an inclusive program for differently abled  children and adults in their rec programs. These programs are run by volunteers and no added expense to the tax payers.

GoddessNDaRuff
by Silver Member on Jan. 25, 2013 at 7:05 PM

This is what I thought. This makes no sense whatsoever.

Quoting yourspecialkid:

 How is the school district supposed to provide a place on a football team to a kid in a wheelchair...archery for someone that is blind?

This will hit small school districts especially hard.

I am a parent of a special needs child and I would not expect the school to make this accommodation.  My son is there for an education..not sports.  This will divert resources from more important things.

 

 


momtimesx4
by Silver Member on Jan. 25, 2013 at 7:39 PM

Might be better to just bring back Physical Education for the schools in general....might help reduce some of the diabeetus...



Mommy_of_Riley
by Jes on Jan. 25, 2013 at 7:43 PM
Our school has normal PE an they play sports in PE... But the special needs children are included unless they don't want to participate (which is my son). If that's the case they have alternative activities for them to do...
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UpSheRises
by Platinum Member on Jan. 25, 2013 at 7:58 PM
1 mom liked this

I have a hard time caring about this but if i was a better person i'd probably be glad.

I don't think sports are important. I don't even think they belong in school. I think kids should play with thier friends rather than engage in adult-managed sports activities until high school.

UpSheRises
by Platinum Member on Jan. 25, 2013 at 7:59 PM

I think children would be much better off in PE than they are on a baseball team any day of the week.


Quoting momtimesx4:

Might be better to just bring back Physical Education for the schools in general....might help reduce some of the diabeetus...





LindaClement
by Linda on Jan. 25, 2013 at 9:35 PM
1 mom liked this

The playing field doesn't need to be 'leveled' ... all people need to have active lifestyles. 

The folks with hereditary dwarfism are not going to be getting a place on the varsity football team... but there's no reason they can't swim, run, do yoga or take dance. 

Variety, people, it's the answer to nearly everything...

squeekers
by Bronze Member on Jan. 25, 2013 at 9:36 PM

 I shared this with my family, in facebook

WesternNYmom
by Silver Member on Jan. 25, 2013 at 9:47 PM
1 mom liked this

 Our town, recently started a youth baseball league for kids and young adults with developmental disabitlies in our community.  The new diamond is set up so that individuals that are required to use adaptive equiment (canes, walkers, wheelchairs etc.) can play.  The program, diamond, and all the modified equipment for the program was funded through donations from residents of the town, and also through the donations from many of the local buisnesses.  Many local resturants here also donate food to be sold at the concession stand during the games. All the money the concession stand brings in goes to fund the program.  When this program was announced during a town meeting, a majority of the residents here jumped on board to support it. The only ones who were against it, were a few people who were ticked off that their precious tennis court were going to be relocated further back in the park near the soccer fields. I don't know why they were complaining. As a result of the move, these people got brand new tennis courts to play on. 

 

Quoting Ms.KitKat:

 This is a victory for the differently - abled!!!!! My children's schools have been doing this for years and years! And about 10 years ago now, my town's recreation dept ha developed an inclusive program for differently abled  children and adults in their rec programs. These programs are run by volunteers and no added expense to the tax payers.

 

 

nuclear_sugar
by Jaye on Jan. 25, 2013 at 9:53 PM
Great in theory. Truly.

But this is just another un-funded mandate handed down onto the shoulders of districts that can't find funding for things they actually NEED, like books, security, more teachers, and special Ed support staff.

The Feds need to put their money where their legislative mouth is and back up this mandate with some funds. Or maybe take care of some school districts' NEEDS before politicking in extra-curriculars.
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