Just over 40 years ago, girls' sports got a tremendous boost with the passage of Title IX, a law banning discrimination against girls in school sports. Girls' participation in sports shot up by 600%. Now the U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines that some advocates believe will have a similar affect for kids with disabilities.
"This is a landmark moment for students with disabilities," activist Terri Lakowski told the Associated Press. "This is a huge victory."
In a blog post on Friday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan explained that the department's Office of Civil Rights was releasing "guidance that clarifies existing legal obligations" under Section 504 to students with special needs, at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels. In this document, the Office
- cautions against making decisions based on presumptions and stereotypes
- details Section 504 regulations that require students with disabilities to have an equal opportunity for participation in nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities
- discusses the provision of separate or different athletic opportunities
These guidelines don't mean kids with special needs are guaranteed spots on competitive teams. But they do mean those kids can't be excluded if they are capable of participating, and that accommodations that allow them to participate must be allowed (the example given was providing a visual starting cue for a hearing-impaired runner in a track and field event).