BlazeSports Celebrates Students with Disabilities Right to Play Sport

 

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – BlazeSports America congratulates the Obama Administration and the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, on releasing this landmark guidance to public elementary and secondary schools, and colleges clarifying their obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to provide extracurricular activities for students with disabilities.

This guidance is in direct response to the findings of Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report released in June 2010 Students with Disabilities, More Information and Guidance Could Improve Opportunities in Physical Education and Athletics. BlazeSports wishes to thank Senator Tom Harkin, Congressman George Miller, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, and Congressman Chris Van Hollen for leading the request to the GAO.

BlazeSports played a lead role in securing congressional support for the GAO study and mobilizing the disability sport community behind the effort.  The Women’s Sport Foundation and US Paralympics were leading voices in the early stages of the campaign.  We also applaud the contributions of so many disability sport organizations and leaders for their early and considerable contributions over three decades.

“Today we celebrate an important milestone in advancing the rights of students with disabilities to play school sports. This guidance opens the door for the expansion of sports opportunities for students with disabilities. Tomorrow the work begins anew as we engage school officials in making extra curricular sports participation a reality for students with disabilities across the country,” reminds Ann Cody, BlazeSports Director of Policy and Global Outreach.

“BlazeSports is prepared to work with and assist schools, school districts and state departments of education and other organizations in meeting this guidance”, says Jeff Jones, Director of Sport and Community Programs. BlazeSports can assist school systems in assessing current activities and needs, train teachers, volunteers and coaches on sport rules/inclusion strategies, and equipment adaptations, and help create more opportunities for students K-12 with disabilities to participate in sport.  For more information, please contact Jeff Jones, Director of Sport and Community Programs at 404-270-2000 or jjones@blazesports.org.

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DOE New School Policy 2013

GAO Report 2010 Students with Disabilities PE

http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=nhbLyN76

 

 

From the AP – Schools must provide sports for disabled, US says

PHILIP ELLIOTT

Published: Today

In this July 28, 2012 photo provided by Lisa Followay, Casey Followay competes in the the USATF Junior Olympics in Maryland. Breaking new ground, the U.S. Education Department is telling schools Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, they must include students with disabilities in sports programs or provide equal alternative options. The directive, reminiscent of the Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for women, could bring sweeping changes to school budgets and locker rooms for years to come. “I heard about some of the other people who joined their track teams in other states. I wanted to try to do that,” said 15-year-old Casey Followay, who competes on his Ohio high school track team in a racing wheelchair. Current rules require Followay to race on his own, without competitors running alongside him. He said he hopes the Education Department guidance will change that and he can compete against runners.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Students with disabilities must be given a fair shot to play on a traditional sports team or have their own leagues, the Education Department says.

Disabled students who want to play for their school could join traditional teams if officials can make “reasonable modifications” to accommodate them. If those adjustments would fundamentally alter a sport or give the student an advantage, the department is directing the school to create parallel athletic programs that have comparable standing to traditional programs.

“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 announcing the new guidance Friday.

The groundbreaking order is reminiscent of the Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for girls and women four decades ago and could bring sweeping changes to school budgets and locker rooms for years to come.

Activists cheered the changes.

“This is a landmark moment for students with disabilities. This will do for students with disabilities what Title IX did for women,” said Terri Lakowski, who for a decade led a coalition pushing for the changes. “This is a huge victory.”

It’s not clear whether the new guidelines will spark a sudden uptick in sports participation. There was a big increase in female participation in sports after Title IX guidance instructed schools to treat female athletics on par with male teams. That led many schools to cut some men’s teams, arguing that it was necessary to be able to pay for women’s teams.

Education Department officials emphasized they did not intend to change sports traditions dramatically or guarantee students with disabilities a spot on competitive teams. Instead, they insisted schools may not exclude students based on their disabilities if they can keep up with their classmates.

Federal laws, including the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, require states to provide a free public education to all students and prohibit schools that receive federal money from discriminating against students with disabilities. Going further, the new directive from the Education Department’s civil rights division explicitly tells schools and colleges that access to interscholastic, intramural and intercollegiate athletics is a right.

The department suggests minor accommodations to incorporate students with disabilities onto sports teams. For instance, track and field officials could use a visual cue for a deaf runner to begin a race.

Some states already offer such programs. Maryland, for instance, passed a law in 2008 that required schools to create equal opportunities for students with disabilities to participate in physical education programs and play on traditional athletic teams. And Minnesota awards state titles for disabled student athletes in six sports.

Increasingly, those with disabilities are finding spots on their schools’ teams.

“I heard about some of the other people who joined their track teams in other states. I wanted to try to do that,” said Casey Followay, 15, of Wooster, Ohio, who competes on his high school track team in a racing wheelchair.

Current rules require Followay to race on his own, without competitors running alongside him. He said he hopes the Education Department guidance will change that and he can compete against runners.

“It’s going to give me the chance to compete against kids at my level,” he said.

Some cautioned that progress would come in fits and starts initially.

“Is it easy? No,” said Brad Hedrick, director of disability services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and himself a hall-of-famer in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. “In most places, you’re beginning from an inertial moment. But it is feasible and possible that a meaningful and viable programming can be created.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in News, Policy/Advocacy |

Blazers Sweep Pioneer Classic

 

The Georgia Blazers Wheelchair Basketball Teams were a perfect 4-0 to earn a sweep at the 2013 Pioneer Classic.  Hosted by the Lakeshore Foundation, the Pioneer Classic has grown over the years and become one of the premier wheelchair basketball tournaments in the country.  The tournament began in 1987 when the AT&T Pioneers raised money to fund Lakeshore Foundation’s first wheelchair basketball invitational.  Twenty-four years later, the Pioneer Classic has become a long-standing tradition among competitive wheelchair basketball players as well as an opportunity for newcomers to experience the growing sport.

Blazers talk strategy in a tight game against the Lakeshore Sharks.

The Blazers’ Varsity Team started the day with a convincing 51-18 win over the Music City Thunder.  Treyvon Smith and Josh Joines led the Blazers at half time with 10 points each, while Ben Baxter added 9 points to help the Blazers to a solid 35-3 half time lead.  In the second half, the Blazers spread the ball around and had all eight Blazers score including 10 points from Ben Baxter to help the Blazers to a win their fourth game of the season.

The Blazers’ Prep team started their tournament with a 28-2 win over Music City’s Prep team. KJ Reese and Samuel Armas led all scorers with 8 points followed by Cameron Elzey with 6 points, Chance Boyd with 4 and Taevon Grant with 2 points.

Zachary Armas (#4) and Cade Manor playing tough defense.

The Varsity squad’s second game was against a much tougher Lakeshore Lakers team.  This was the third time this season the two teams have played; in November they split a pair of games at the North Carolina Winter Classic.  The defensive match up was tied at half time 14-14.  Josh Joines and Bryan Powell kept the Blazers in the first half with 4 points each.  The second half was not pretty with either team unable to buy a bucket.  Ben Baxter and Curran Brown were the only Blazers to score in the second half, but 4 points from each of them was enough to pull out a 22-17 win on the Lakeshore Sharks.  With the win the Blazers Varsity squad moved to 5-1 for the season.

The Blazers’ Prep team finished the day with a game against the host team Lakeshore Sharks.  Taevon Grant led all scorers with a career high 10 points. Samuel Armas, KJ Reese, Chance Boyd and Cameron Elzey all added one basket to finish with an 18-2 win.  Rookies Zachary Armas and Cade Maynor continued to play outstanding defensive.  The Prep Blazers win gave the young squad a perfect 7-0 season record as they continue to defend their 2011-2012 NWBA National Championship.

The Blazers return to Birmingham in three weeks for the Southeast Regional tournament and then host the Southeast Championships, March 9 & 10 in Marietta, GA.  For more information about the Blazers’ wheelchair basketball program, visit our website at www.blazesports.org or contact Jeff Jones @ jjones@blazesports.org.

Posted in News, Wheelchair Basketball |

Wishing you a healthy (& active) New Year!

Posted in News |