STEVENS POINT, Wis. -- The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights issued information that clarifies a school district’s existing legal obligations to provide equal access to extracurricular athletic activities to students with disabilities today.
Along with the explanation of those legal obligations, the guidelines urge school districts to work with community organizations to increase athletic opportunities for students with disabilities, such as opportunities outside of the existing extracurricular athletic program.
According to the Office of Civil Rights release, “Extracurricular athletics—which include club, intramural, or interscholastic (e.g., freshman, junior varsity, varsity) athletics at all education levels—are an important component of an overall education program."
“The WIAA and its members have been including students with disabilities for decades,” WIAA Executive Director Dave Anderson said. “Our attitude and approach will continue to be to embrace and find ways to follow the law and meet the needs and interests of our member schools as they seek to serve their students.”
The WIAA, its member schools and the Department of Public Instruction have been including students with disabilities in the sports offered. The Pupil Nondiscrimination Guidelines for Athletics is joint publication produced by the DPI and the WIAA addressing The Wisconsin State Statutes of the administrative code.
In the Legal Overview section of the publication, it states “In 1985, the Wisconsin Legislature enacted section 118.13, Wis. Stats., which prohibits discrimination in public schools on the basis of sex, race, religion, national origin, ancestry, creed, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, or physical mental, emotional, or learning disability. State courts have also created law regarding students' civil rights as courts reviewed cases under section 118.13, Wis. Stats., and the equal protection clause of the Wisconsin Constitution.”
Member schools are advised to follow the guidelines provided by the Office for Civil Rights:
A summary of the five main points of the guidance are: 1) judge each athlete as an individual, 2) provide opportunity with modification (which does not change the game or provide an unfair advantage), 3) provide needed aids which extend to after-school programming, 4) inclusion with able-bodied, although separate, but equal may be acceptable and 5) expand inclusion, but the best players are still chosen.
The membership of the WIAA oversees interscholastic athletic programs for 507 senior high schools and 70 junior high/middle level schools in its membership. It sponsors 25 championship tournament series in 2012-13. For more information, please contact the Office of Civil Rights or visit the Pupil Nondiscrimination page on the WIAA website:
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