Archive for Friday, January 25, 2013

Disability advocates cheer new federal guidelines on school sports

January 25, 2013


When he was an infant, Ray Petty contracted polio in the early 1950s. The disease, which affected thousands of other American children, robbed him of much of his ability to use his legs.

Looking back at his childhood growing up in Texas, he said it also robbed him of the chance to participate in many school activities.

"After elementary school, that pretty much just knocked me out of being in gym class and keeping up, running up and down gym courts," Petty said.

Now living in Lawrence, Petty is president of Kansas Accessible Sports, a group that promotes recreation and fitness opportunities for people with mobility impairments. And on Friday, he was thrilled with an announcement from the U.S. Department of Education that school districts must provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular athletics.

"Kids sitting on the sidelines keeping score books or being in the band, and never having the chance to participate in competitive sports, or team sports in particular, in my view really miss out on a lot of socialization," Petty said.

The new federal guidelines were issued by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. They are based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits any employer or organization that receives any amount of federal funding from excluding or denying people with disabilities an equal opportunity to receive program benefits and services.

"I think it's a great ruling and it will benefit a lot of young people," said Bob Mikesic, advocacy coordinator for Independence Inc., a Lawrence-based disability rights organization. "Extracurricular activities of various kinds, especially sports and physical education, it really has a positive impact on people's lives."

The guidelines do not require schools to include students with disabilities in selective or competitive sports, but they do prohibit schools from denying those students the chance to compete and to make reasonable accommodations for them.

For example, they suggest that if a deaf student is talented enough to compete in track, but cannot hear a starting gun, the school should provide a light signal to start a race. And in swimming, the guidelines suggest lifting the rule that a swimmer touch the edge of the pool with both hands at the end of a race if there is a one-armed swimmer who is otherwise capable of competing.

However, if schools are unable or unwilling to offer accommodations, the federal agency says they must offer a parallel program just for students with disabilities.

Lawrence school superintendent Rick Doll said he believes local schools already comply with the rules. He noted, for example, that all individualized education plans, or IEP's, for special education students include a statement saying the student, "will have the same opportunities to participate with children without disabilities in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities, unless otherwise noted."

In addition, he said schools work with the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department to help student take part in other community activities.

"I do agree that extracurricular activities are extremely important for all kids, with or without disabilities," Doll said. "And so as much as possible, making those activities accessible to kids with disabilities is a noble goal."

Gary Musselman, executive director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, was unavailable for comment Friday. But in an email, he referred to a statement from the National Federation of State High School Associations that expressed "full support" for the new guidelines.

Although it wasn't immediately clear how far the guidelines would extend to college and university sports programs, Jim Marchiony, spokesman for Kansas Athletics, said he believes Kansas University already is in full compliance.

"Kansas Athletics strongly believes in this philosophy and has practiced it," Marchiony said. "We had a deaf woman on our soccer team as recently as two or three years ago, and we provided sign language interpreters. This is a philosophy that we not only believe in, but we practice it."


kusp8 5 years, 4 months ago

Whoa there. Being in band doesn't limit socialization. I'm sorry you had no real opportunities to participate in athletics. But I'm pretty sure there were plenty of people in you graduating class who didn't participate in sports but were able to socialize just fine. So just because you were limited in your opportunities doesn't mean being a non-athlete means you're unable to socialize.

Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

I was thinking the same thing. You are part of a team in band and many other non-athletic sports and get a lot of opportunities to socialize and make new friends.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 4 months ago

I never played competitive sports outside of little league soccer and middle school cross-country. That doesn't mean I was any less social than the athletes. Band, orchestra, youth group, I probably had a wider variety of activities than many of my peers. Not to mention that Marching Band requires skills like many sports, but bands have been making accommodations for years.

Steve Jacob 5 years, 4 months ago

It all great, until the bills come in. Mr Doll says they already comply, sure some parents will disagree, and next thing you know the next bond issue will say "so we can be compliant with the new regulations".

AjiDeGallina 5 years, 4 months ago

so, KUSP8 does not see a problem with keeping the folks with disabilities in the sidelines because they can do other things? I would imagine susp8 would give them some glue and crayons and glitter and paper and tell them how lucky they are. Personally, I see full access to society as goal for advancement and with an ultimate result of persons with disabilities who are more socially inclined, more independent and more ready for the work place, meaning less public assistance.

Meaning SRJ feels that while our nation can afford to give oil companies close to a billion dollars in subsidies in face of record profits, we can not afford a few million to include the excluded even though in the long run it is a positive investment in our society.

You two are beautiful.

Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

You aren't on the sidelines in band. Have you heard of marching band?

Full access is a good thing but to state that non-athletic sports and activities keep you on the "sidelines" is just out and out inaccurate.

Why don't you tell our excellent debaters at Free State, Lawrence High and Bishop Seabury that they are on the sidelines?

How about telling that to the art students that place in nationwide contests?

Or the chess team?

All of those sports are just as important as physical contact sports and provide excellent opportunities for the students that participate in them. To imply that those things are just activities are only for those who can't play physical contact sports does a great disservice to the many students that enjoy those things.

Steve Jacob 5 years, 4 months ago

I agree with everything you say, but this is the real world. This is an unfunded mandate, basically forcing schools to spend more money, without getting more money. What cuts have to be made?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

Rather than expand opportunities for people with disabilities, it may become necessary to lower opportunities for people without disabilities to the same level as those with disabilities.

Jillian Andrews 5 years, 4 months ago

It's not about band vs. sports vs. theater, etc. It's about people with disabilities having the same rights and opportunities as everyone else in our country. It's about school's not saying the kid with cerebral palsy can't try out for wrestling. It's about saying HE SURE AS HELL CAN AND HAS THE SAME RIGHT TO TRY. This is a civil rights issue. The ADA and Rehab Act are CIVIL RIGHTS laws. There is nothing new here. The Rehab Act was passed in 1973, but was not complied with for decades. This is about finally policing schools who have discriminated against students with disabilities since...well...EVER.

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 4 months ago

That's not what stops4 said. Stops4 said the student with the disability should have the right to try out. If the student can play at the level required, with or without reasonable accomodations, then the student should be allowed to play regardless of disability. Nothing more.

Deb Engstrom 5 years, 4 months ago

I taught special education at LHS for 22 years and my students were never denied the opportunity to participate in any extracurricular activity including cheerleading, swimming, band, vocal music, football, wrestling, bowling, track. Some required accommodations and support but all were participants.

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't think that Petty meant that being in band was a lesser activity than being on the athletics team. Neither do I think that kusp8 or srj meant that there is no qualitative difference between being in band or being on the athletics team.

Let's all of us calm down and try to understand each other's intents and meanings, rather than nitpick word choices. Our conversations will advance both more quickly and more robustly.

fan4kufootball 5 years, 4 months ago

Lets keep it real - not everyone is equipped physically and/or mentally for all activities. I love basketball! But as a very short person I was never allowed to participate in the sport (even though I tried out for the team). Nor could I manipulate the hurdles very well in track. Does that make me disabled? No - it means that I need to find some other activity that I can participate in - whether it be another physical sport where height is not such an issue or an activity such as the chess club, debate club, etc. We all have different strenghts and weaknesses. As individuals we have to find the niche we fit into and then excel in that activity.

richh 5 years, 4 months ago

Last 16 years ago, I remembered when I played high school baseball team as captain and we had one deaf guy name Tom. He had never play on the baseball field for several games during he sit on the bench all the time what the coaches told him to. I told the manager why we let Tom play the baseball game? The manager said, "No, I rather not let him on the field, because he might get hurt." He acts like little fear of Tom.

After ten games, the manager was not here for some reason as court jury, I told asst. manager to let Tom play on the field, because he had not play on the field since first game. The asst manager tried to talk with Tom, but it was hard, because he is total deaf and not understands what asst. manager said, so I wrote a note to Tom to make sure he understand. At the game, we surprised that Tom hit four times in four at bat. He run to double twice and triple one time. Tom scored three times! After the game, he act sign language to me "Thank you"

Next day, we practiced, the asst manager told the manager how Tom played so best in the game. The manager listens and not said anything, because he knew that is wrong thing as not let him play on the field for nine games!

No matter how hearing or deaf human is, both were same thing! Don’t fear of deaf kids, let them play and we can surprise how they play so well!

Austin Bergstrom 5 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Brock Masters 5 years, 4 months ago

I am cool with it as long as we don't lower the standards for making the team. No on should be denied the opportunity to try out and if all it takes is a reasonable common sense change to let a kid who meets the standard then by all means. It is a no brainer to alter the rule to let a swimmer touch with only one hand if that is all he has.

However, we do a disservice to everyone involved when we pretend someone with a disability is participating. For example there was a story about a wrestle with a disability. They had to carry him onto the mat and the opposing player rolled him on top of him and let him pin him. That is wrong. You demean the sport and the person with the disability.

Deb Engstrom 5 years, 4 months ago

This is not anyone's meaning of participation unless it is a "staged" event to give the individual one shining moment/photo op.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 4 months ago

Your link does not work, all I got was a black screen, but I did find it on You Tube. You can see that the disabled boy was carried onto the mat and the other boy manipulated things so that the disabled boy could win.

After the match the boy who lost said that winning is not always the right thing and that the smile on the other boys face made what he did worthwhile. Make of this what you will.

happyrearviewmirror 5 years, 4 months ago

I so admire the well-known ability of Kansans to appreciate others through the mind's eyes and not to judge them by appearances. Witness in the above article Jim Marchiony, spokesman for Kansas Athletics:

"Kansas Athletics strongly believes in this philosophy and has practiced it," Marchiony said. "We had a deaf woman on our soccer team as recently as two or three years ago, and we provided sign language interpreters. This is a philosophy that we not only believe in, but we practice it.

Mr. Marchiony believes" Kansas University already is in full compliance". As anyone who knows how to dishonestly deploy boilerplate rhetoric to deny the emperor's nakedness realizes the letter and the spirit of the law often differ by 180 degrees. No one who thoughtlessly and automatically reduces another human being to a label such as Marchiony does in the soundbite above is in compliance with the spirit of the ADA.

Lawrence in my experience is full of rank literalists, a highly unevolved way to act and be. How can any population be so fundamentally lacking in the ability to understand and listen-- not to mention reason? It takes one to know one I guess, and Kansans don't have that vaunted reputation for intelligence. No surprise they fail to appreciate the quality in others.

Much easier to reduce others to labels , and kid yourself that you are God's gift and entitled to impose incompetent "help" on random pedestrians--meanwhile scaring the pudding out of civilized people with your frightening ignorance.

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