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.

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