by Timothy Cox in Youth on Point/News from LACOE | http://bit.ly/14T3dWj
April 2, 2013 09:46 :: Public schools are required to provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate alongside their nondisabled peers in after-school athletics.
"But unfortunately, we know that students with disabilities are all too often denied the chance to participate and with it, the respect that comes with inclusion," wrote U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a recent blog post.
To clarify existing legal requirements, the USDOE's Office for Civil Rights has released a document that provides guidance to school districts. The guidance follows a 2010 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office that found many students with disabilities are not being afforded equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular athletics.
LACOE's Adapted Physical Education Program has a successful track record in working with districts to promote the full participation of students with disabilities in high school athletics and other extracurricular activities.
"Our firm belief is that every student has the ability and desire to move or be active and that activity is a necessary component of a healthy lifestyle," said Kathryn Russell, coordinator of LACOE's Adapted PE program. "Many of our adapted physical educators have participated in high school or college athletics or have experience coaching. They are available to districts to help develop appropriate accommodations so all student-athletes have the opportunity to compete with their peers."
Through the use of interpreters, for example, students with hearing impairments have fully participated in their high school football, wrestling, track and field, cross-country and basketball teams.
One notable participant is Chris Loatman, a former running back for the Mira Costa High School (Manhattan Beach) football team, who played in the CIF Southern Section Western Division title game in 2008 and was profiled in the L.A. Times.
Russell noted that with the assistance of LACOE's Adapted PE program, students with autism and orthopedic or visual impairments have successfully participated in high school CIF cross-country and wrestling.
If you would like guidance or assistance in how to better include students with disabilities in after-school or extracurricular athletics, send an email to Kathryn Russell.
Photo: Former Mira Costa H.S. running back Chris Loatman successfully competed in CIF football despite a hearing impairment. (Credit: Scott Varley/Daily Breeze)