Opening School Sports to Kids with Disabilities

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On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights issued a directive to say students with disabilities must be given equal opportunity to compete in school sports.

Considering that the Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, one wonders why it took so long to make kids' sports accessible to people with disabilities. Many compare this ruling to the 1972 ruling called Title IX which opened the door to women in athletics.

Some may fear that this law will "dumb down" competition, but that's not the point. As with employment provisions of the ADA, kids must be able to play the sport well to make the team. However, certain conventions exclude kids with disabilities. For example, someone who is deaf may be an excellent runner, but excluded from competition because a "gun shot" is used to start races. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Education Department said,

Like their peers without disabilities, these students benefit from participating in sports. 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. This is simply wrong. While it's the coach's job to pick the best team, students with disabilities must be judged based on their individual abilities, and not excluded because of generalizations, assumptions, prejudices, or stereotypes.

What do you think? Was this a good decision or a poor one? How will it affect school athletics going forward?

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It is a terrible idea! "THE respect that comes with inclusion."  BULL!  Respect comes with pulling your share, contributing to a win.  

One of my kids coaches Little League.  The youngest kids play T-Ball and don't officially keep scores but every kid knows who the winners and losers are. 

Admin

From the post, it sounds like this is about 'reasonable accommodation' (e.g. a starter light in addition to the starter pistol?) not including anyone regardless of their skill level.

As for little kids keeping score...I have 3 young kids playing sports and what you say is true - they keep score even when the coaches don't. But it's the TEAM score they count. I've heard them complain about kids they perceive to be too agressive or cheating. But I never hear them complain about 'weaker' players on their team. In fact, the cheers are loudest not when the star players score again, but when the kid who hasn't scored all year long finally gets one.

I'm sure that may change as they get older, and the competition intensifies. But let's give those little kids credit where credit is due.

Guide

Bill, I don't understand. Why wouldn't a person who has a disability be able to pull his/her share on a sports team if he has the abilities to perform the sport at the same level as the other athletes on the team? Mark 

I have been able to hold a "middle class" job for 30 years, raise 5 kids who all turned out well (or at lest wisely chose their mother),  pay all the bills, cut firewood, drive a car, do carpentry, read, write, and do math better than most people, yet I have always been terrible at every sort of organized sports. I am at least smart enough to know that I should not play team sports. Do I have a "sports disability?"  

If a person is able to do everything well that is required to be done on a sports team, which requires mental, social, psychological, and physical qualities, then in what other ways might this person be "disabled?"  

I hate thinking about it, but apparently the only way St Paul could think of for a "Christian" person to judge his abilities thus his thus disabilities was against the professional soldier and the professional athelete. This must through some light on the theoretical problem and the pragmatic problem of the legal and social status of people with physical and/or mental disabilities.

Are you helping a disabled kid by praising him for simply wanting to do something or are you actually praying for and/or assuming God will do somekind of miracle? 

This moden American culture - what passes for culture - has ruined so many useful ancient words, "gay," for example, that I can no longer get upset with the degrading of "Olympics."  I have nothing against organizing activities for disabled kids and calling them "olympics" as  long as it helps them.

I can see any good that will come from legally requiring disabled kids on high school sports teams. All it will produce is "make work" for lawyers. Schools will be required to prove in court that a specific disabled child should not be playing on the field with a specific sports team.

Further, the new "women in combat" rules "prove" that women are qualified to play in the Bowl  Games and the football Super Ball game. THAT should stir the "Christian" pot. 

Guide

Bill, you asked, "If a person is able to do everything well that is required to be done on a sports team, which requires mental, social, psychological, and physical qualities, then in what other ways might this person be "disabled?""

A blind or a deaf swimmer, or a deaf runner, or a deaf basketball player all could fit the definitions of "disabled" and "skilled athlete." We are so used to conventional ways of doing things in sports (a starting gun or a buzzer) that we can't imagine how someone with a disability such as hearing impairment could compete. But, for example, a series of flashes could be used in addition to a buzzer to start a swim event. Oscar Pistorius is a flesh and blood example; an outstanding runner who also has a disability.

My understanding of this law is not that it will force coaches to include kids without the necessary abilities to be included on a team, but that it requires organizers of the sports to rethink how to make it possible for kids who have disabilities to compete fairly with the rest of the competition. It's purpose is to reduce disability discrimination in school sports.