Equal Sports Opportunities For Disabled Students


It's a move that will affect all American schools. The Obama Administration Friday orders districts to give disabled students equal opportunities in sports. It has local school administrators assessing what's already in place and waiting to see what's next.

Whether it's basketball, swimming, or cheerleading, the Department of Education told schools Friday that disabled students must be given a fair shot to play.

"We make everywhere effort to open doors for students not close them" said Pleasant Valley High School Principal Mike Zimmer.

Zimmer says his athletics program already has good examples of this happening such as the Spartan Sparkles since 2008, and now the Shining Stars. They are cheer and dance teams where disabled students are fully integrated into the school's athletics program.

"Students get a chance to meet their peers they maybe would not have interacted with before. They gain an appreciation of what their abilities are and not their disabilities," said Zimmer.

Schools are being told that disabled students can join traditional teams as long as officials can make "reasonable modifications" to accommodate them. If, however, those adjustments fundamentally alter a sport or give the student an advantage, schools are told to offer separate programs. Schools risk losing federal funding if they don't, but administrators say they have a lot of questions because there haven't been any guidelines released since the announcement.

It's also unclear whether federal funding will be provided to schools, or whether they'll have to use their own dime for additional programs or to modify existing ones. Administrators think though it's all a step in the right direction.

"Opportunities should be made available within reasonable constraints. I guess that term reasonable is going to be different for different folks," added Zimmer.

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