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White House requires school athletics for disabled
January 25, 2013 at 7:23 AM


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 →



Replies

  • JoshRachelsMAMA
    JRM
    January 25, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    spend spend spend........

  • Euphoric
    January 25, 2013 at 10:19 AM

     Interesting.

  • yourspecialkid
    January 25, 2013 at 10:29 AM

     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.

     

     

  • eema.gray
    January 25, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    I got more exercie in P.E. class than playing volleyball or softball.  Truth be known, I was a terrible athlete and spent very little time actually moving during ball practices.  But our P.E. teacher was wonderful and made sure every girl (we had single sex P.E. at my private school) was actually moving for 45 minutes.


    Quoting radioheid:

     Sports offer education in a very important part of human culture the world over, which is why virtually every high school in America, public and private, has an athletics program. I personally feel that at least one year's participation in a team sport should be required for high school graduation as part of each school's phys ed program. The lessons learned playing sports are invaluable, and cannot be learned in a classroom.

    My only concern with the mandate is the lack of funding, and how very unrealistic this would be in a rural school that has just one or two handicapped kids in the entire student body.

    Quoting talia-mom:

    Then the school and the parents and the children fundraises for those without the money.    This is pointless to spend tens and tens thousands of dollars a year on activities that may help 1 in 1000 kids get a scholarship when teachers don't have enough supplies.


    Quoting radioheid:

     Only the rich would be able to participate. The cost of shoes, under armor, practice balls and other gear not supplied by schools is already a barrier for many poor kids in school athletics. I had to buy my niece's soccer gear this past year, or she wouldn't have been able to play because her mother couldn't afford it. Just shoes, shin guards, a practice ball and water bottle set me back nearly a hundred bucks. Soccer is my niece's greatest shot at a college scholarship, so it is very important.

    Quoting talia-mom:

    Doesn't matter.  Tax the rich.

    personally, I think parents should have to pay for all of athletics.


    Quoting radioheid:

     I'm trying to be a realist here---where is the money going to come from? Many schools are already cutting their art and music programs to save money in budget crunches. What will they take away next to accomodate this mandate?



     



     



  • TruthSeeker.
    January 25, 2013 at 11:27 AM

     More than likely several schools will come together to provide a sport for all of their students. How many students in wheelchairs are there at a typical school that "want" to play basketball.

     I see this as a good thing and not something that will be that costly if it spans several schools/districts to make sure everyone that wishes to play is included.

  • kam013
    by kam013
    January 25, 2013 at 11:36 AM


    Quoting talia-mom:

    Then the school and the parents and the children fundraises for those without the money.    This is pointless to spend tens and tens thousands of dollars a year on activities that may help 1 in 1000 kids get a scholarship when teachers don't have enough supplies.


    Quoting radioheid:

     Only the rich would be able to participate. The cost of shoes, under armor, practice balls and other gear not supplied by schools is already a barrier for many poor kids in school athletics. I had to buy my niece's soccer gear this past year, or she wouldn't have been able to play because her mother couldn't afford it. Just shoes, shin guards, a practice ball and water bottle set me back nearly a hundred bucks. Soccer is my niece's greatest shot at a college scholarship, so it is very important.

    Quoting talia-mom:

    Doesn't matter.  Tax the rich.

    personally, I think parents should have to pay for all of athletics.


    Quoting radioheid:

     I'm trying to be a realist here---where is the money going to come from? Many schools are already cutting their art and music programs to save money in budget crunches. What will they take away next to accomodate this mandate?



     



    Our town has both a town sports program and school sports programs.  The town sports programs can only take kids so far if they want to play college sports.  Even smaller high school programs are not the best place for some Athletes, usually a Club sports program is the best place for someone to play if they are seriously looking at college sports scholarships.  Unfortunately many Club sports are just too expensive for many families, but being seen by College Coaches is a must, so High School sports play a big role in helping these students.  We paid upwards of $3000 per year for our daughter to play Club Soccer, she ended up with all but $3000, of a $32,000 tuition covered by Scholarships.  Definitely a good investment.

    The reality is that for MANY students an Athletic Scholarship is the only way they can afford college, regardless of grades.  We were very fortunate that our daughter managed to get both Athletic and Academic scholarships, but the Athletic scholarship was much higher.    

    Taking away that opportunity for ANY student is unfair.  Athletics is important for many reasons, including to help curb the ever growing OBESITY issues.  To remove them from the schools would be more of a setback to kids than keeping them there.  

    Our schools do have User fees for sports and they also fundraise through school booster programs.  

  • Stephanie329
    January 25, 2013 at 11:36 AM
    I just skimmed: this sounds great in theory but I have to wonder how it'll look on paper - budget wise. It's a shame this hasn't always been mandated.
  • kam013
    by kam013
    January 25, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    In regards, to the original article I think in some instances it would be very simple and not so costly to incorporate the Special Needs students.  The example of a hearing impaired Athlete on the track team for instance.  

    Beyond the financial aspect, I think my biggest concern would be how realistic the parents of the student involved are.  I can see a case where parents would insist on participation in a sport that just isn't physically feasible for the student.  

    I used to see this all the time when working in the school system with my disabled Nephew.  Some parents are just not willing to understand or accept their child's limitations, understandably so. . . which ends up being detrimental to the child.  


  • Veni.Vidi.Vici.
    January 25, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    Does that mean that big daddy G is going to enforce school athletic programs. As far as I know there are plenty of schools that forego athletics to save money or for lack of money to support it. There are many towns within our state that individual towns and counties offer rec leagues, but no school sports.

  • happinessforyou
    January 25, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    How is Special Olympics funded? And can they expand their programs into public school?

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