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MN Supreme Court Refuses to Limit Extracurricular & Nonacademic Activities to those that “Educate the Child”

by Wrightslaw

Can my child’s IEP include supplementary aids and services for extracurricular activities and after-school programs?

The answer is yes.

We receive many questions from parents about extracurricular activities, after school clubs, and sports. The schools tell parents they are not required to provide assistance for these activities since they occur after school, take place off the school grounds, or do not involve academics.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruling in Independent School Dist. v. Minn. Dep’t of Education (Oct. 7, 2010)  held that IDEA requires school districts to take steps to provide extracurricular and nonacademic activities to afford the student an equal opportunity to participate. The IEP team must determine which activities are appropriate and include them in the IEP. These activities are not limited to activities that “educate the child.”

Minnesota parents of a 5th grader with autism requested that the IEP team consider supplementary aids and services to enable their daughter to participate in volleyball and after-school clubs.

When the school district refused, the parents filed a complaint with the Minnesota DOE. DOE concluded that the school district violated IDEA.

The Department ordered the school district to convene the IEP team to discuss any appropriate supplementary aids and services needed in the IEP to allow the student to participate in these activities.

The school district appealed and the appeals court held that IDEA requires an IEP team to consider whether an extracurricular and nonacademic activity is appropriate for the student. The school must provide the necessary aids and services for participation, but only if the activities are required for the education of the child.

The Supreme Court of Minnesota reviewed the case to determine whether “the IDEA regulations limit the extracurricular and nonacademic activities included in an IEP to only those “required for the education” of disabled students. The court held that the IDEA regulations contain no such limit.

Since IDEA does not define “extracurricular and nonacademic activities” the Court turned to the federal regulations for specific language.

“Section 300.107(b) provides a nonexhaustive list of examples of extracurricular and nonacademic activities. Section 300.107(b) expressly includes athletics, clubs, and activities offered by groups sponsored by the school district. But the section does not otherwise limit those extracurricular and nonacademic activities eligible for inclusion in the IEP.”

“Section 300.117 does not limit what qualifies as an extracurricular and nonacademic activity. Instead, the section further defines extracurricular and nonacademic activities to include meals and recess as well as the activities listed in section 300.107(b).”

The Supreme Court refused “to limit extracurricular and nonacademic activities to those required only to educate the disabled student” because it would be adding or reading words into the plain language of the federal IDEA regulations. The Court also held that the appeals court ruling violated the “equal opportunity” for participation in extracurricular and nonacademic activities required by the federal regulations.

A copy of the case can be downloaded here MDE_v_ISD_12_(Minn_2010) (1)

Hat Tip: Adjunct Law Prof Blog – October 8

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14 Comments on "MN Supreme Court Refuses to Limit Extracurricular & Nonacademic Activities to those that “Educate the Child”"


My son has CP and uses a power chair, attends regular classroom, and is a freshman in hs. His passion is sports broadcasting and he has gained much success on his own the last 2 years and as the PA announcer at his JH. His IEP calls for a 1:1 aide during school and for after school activities. The school had allowed him to announce a couple of teams in the fall but didn’t provide a dedicated aide because they couldn’t find one. The new season is about to begin and now they say they won’t provide one because not all students are given the opportunity to be announcers at games. They say it is not an official extracurricular. However, they will give him an aide if he wants to be a spectator, be an athletic trainer(physically can’t) or team manager. This is not his interest…his IEP and transition plan mention broadcasting. Thoughts??


The school district sponsors ‘school age care’ during the summer for all students of the district. All parents pay a fee for the service. Would this program, be considered extra curricular? If so, would the district be required to provide supplementary aides and services for a child with special needs to participate? (parent willing to pay the same fees as required of all participants).


What about field trips? Our son needs us to attend a field trip (doctor’s orders) due to anxiety, Aspergers, and other medical issues. The school says we are not allowed to go and, therefore, our son cannot go.
Can they refuse to let him go because he needs additional support?


My daughter want to be on the varsity drill team but is a little slower than her peers, they never pick her or anyone who does not meet the requirments as their peers. She has some disabilities in speech and just a little slower but can learn all routines and dances, she need extra help and the school and school distrist will not give her extra help to learn and keep up with the other drill team girls. It is a very hard struggle with no help from the school.
What can we do, tryouts are this weekend, May 4th 2013.
Thank you so much for your help.


If a kid is failing in school–why should he be allowed to play sports? For me, this is not logical. My child has an IEP, plays several competitive sports–if he does not keep up his grades–he does not play. Recently, the team met to discuss his struggles in one of his classes. They helped him with study strategies and modified some of the work–as needed. If a child is failing, should the PPT team, parents and child meet to look at adequate progress, IEP goals, etc…instead of just focusing on the sports? If the goal is progress–why should a failing student play sports. I would never allow my child to play if with failing grades. My son, school and I would review his deficits, study strategies and accomodations. He has to earn the grades to play. He loves sports and that motivates him to achieve. Each child is unique.