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Students With Disabilities Must Be Given Equal Access To Extracurricular Activities

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. 

 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

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 of
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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