On January 25, 2013 the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance on how schools can ensure that students with disabilities are provided equal access to extracurricular sports (club, intramural, interscholastic). You can read the entire document here.
There are three main points in to this January 25, 2013 document. Each section provides interesting example cases and analysis, but here is a summary:
First, OCR warns against general rules and stereotypes that bar students with disabilities from participating in sports and reminds schools to use an individualized inquiry.
Second, OCR explains that the governing law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), requires schools to affords qualified students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate and defines equal opportunity as making reasonable modifications and providing those aids and services that are necessary to ensure an equal opportunity to participate, unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the activity.
Finally, OCR instructs that even students with disabilities who cannot participate in the school district's existing extracurricular program (even with reasonable modifications or aids or services) must still have an equal opportunity to receive the benefits of extracurricular athletics and suggests multiple ways to provide this opportunity such as creating district-wide or regional teams, mixing male and female students together, or offering "allied" or "unified" teams where students with disabilities participate with students without disabilities.
If you have questions about disability-based discrimination and equal access to education, including
extracurricular activities, contact the Boston area law office of Lillian E. Wong today.