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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance Updates The Country on Interscholastic Athletics and Students with Disabilities Following the Office of Civil Rights Dear Colleague Guidance Letter*
RESTON, VA, October 31, 2013 -- More than ever before, athletics and sport programs are making adaptations to ensure that children of all abilities have access to physical activities and that schools are in compliance with current expectations and regulations. These are the findings of a timely feature called "Helping General Physical Educators and Adapted Physical Educators Address the Office of Civil Rights Dear Colleague Guidance Letter," in the October issue of The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (JOPERD) published by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD). More than 20 leaders in the field of adapted physical education, adapted physical activity, disability and adapted sport contributed their expertise to help educators and school district administrators with ideas, models and resources to better address the needs, rights and programs concerning extracurricular interscholastic athletics for students with disabilities.
According to Editor Ronald Davis, a professor and coordinator of the doctoral program in Adapted Physical Activity at Texas Woman's University in Denton, "Our goal in creating this feature was to show school districts across the country that the regulations are doable and there is no need to be afraid of them. By providing examples of what is happening in Anchorage, AK; Cherokee County, GA; St. Mary's County Public Schools, MD; as well as others, we are demonstrating a 'can do' rather than a 'can't do' spirit. As educators we want to help every child to enjoy a fun and meaningful participation in sports."
Organized by findings from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) regarding interscholastic athletics and community sports programming for students with disabilities, the feature covers four major topics: (1) overview of Section 504 requirements, (2) ensuring equal opportunity for participation, (3) offering separate or different athletic opportunities, and (4) personnel preparation (training of highly qualified adapted physical education teachers and coaches).
Garth Tymeson, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, writes in one of the articles, "The rights of all students to participate in extracurricular programs are required by current law but are often nonexistent, misunderstood, or even sometimes purposely not shared with parents." That is why his article addresses what parents should know and do to ensure extracurricular interscholastic opportunities for their children with disabilities. A sample letter to parents from their child's adapted physical education teacher is included to improve communications.
AAHPERD President Gale Wiedow of Dakota State University says, "All students should have equal access and opportunities to participate in all school based programs, including before, during, and after school. Students with disabilities can reduce their health disparities through regularly scheduled physical education and should have the opportunity to expand their skills through athletic programs as well. As this JOPERD feature illustrates so effectively, accommodations must be made to ensure that the environment is one of inclusion rather than exclusion."
To meet that goal the authors also stress the importance of the preparation of effective, high-quality physical educators who will assume coaching positions. Addressing professional preparation for serving students with disabilities, the authors state that coaches must possess the attitudes, knowledge and skills to include competent students on teams by being mindful of the students' medical margin of safety and the safety of others. In addition, these professionals need to develop and implement separate but equal athletic programs for those students with disabilities who may not possesses the required competencies to participate on traditional athletic teams. Among the college programs profiled are Georgia State University, Slippery Rock University, State University of New York-Cortland, The College at Brockport, Texas Woman's University and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
*On January 24, 2013 the Office for Civil Rights issued a Dear Colleague Letter clarifying schools' obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to provide extracurricular athletic opportunities for students with disabilities.
For more information about JOPERD, an AAHPERD membership publication, visit:
Society of Health and Physical Educators