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Does an IEP make a child ineligible for sports?

by Wrightslaw

I was told that my child cannot participate in sports at school because he has an IEP. Isn’t this discrimination? 

Prohibiting a student from participating in a sport because he has a disability and an IEP is discrimination, and a violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 

There are exceptions.

If a child is missing an organ, courts have split about whether the child can be denied the opportunity to participate in a contact sport like football or wrestling. In these cases, the court tries to balance the need to protect the child from serious harm (or death) against the child’s right to participate in a sport. 

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70 Comments on "Does an IEP make a child ineligible for sports?"

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jenny c
11/07/2015 8:22 am

The baseball coach for my son will not let him play on the high school team and he has the ability to play at the same level for varsity as the other kids do. During the tryouts, my son does not get a fair tryout as the other boys do. The coach said that since he did not make on it the baseball team in the last 3 years that he will not make the team in his senior year. Years ago, my son had problems with playing competitively as he has ADHD and some other issues to work… Read more »

09/25/2015 2:31 pm

my son has and iep in place and is right below the c. I am eager to know if anyone has gotten and answer. I’m in Indy, he play’s 6th grade now but, it’s not isha so what about 7th grade?

09/22/2015 7:58 am

My daughter has an i.e.p she is mentally handicapped she has ADHD he has problems controlling her emotions she cannot be yelled at or anything like that it’s very hard to deal with my daughter and she’s been in cheerleading this is her third year but now they want to kick her out because of the way she is are they allowed to do that

05/06/2015 3:22 pm

My child has an IEP and wants to play sports in high school. Problem is that her over-all grade point average is not a “C”. Are their provisions that can allow a child to participate in high school sports even though their are academic struggles associated with her disability that make “making the grade” problematic?

08/19/2015 8:40 am

Did you ever get this issue taken care of? I am going through the same thing right now with my son and playing football.

09/28/2015 7:53 pm

I also am going thru this same issue with my 14 year old son . i even have photo proof he is being singled out of football practice and standing on sidelines during the whole practice .. No gear . just a helmet

05/31/2015 8:37 pm

I have the same issue with son moving into 9th grade from 8th where IEP was not working, so poor grades. IEP not working because son recently diagnosed with FASD, essentially brain damage that makes it impossible to complete work at level previously set. Teachers who said “he can definitely do the work” were wrong. At any event, would be interested if you find anything out. Good luck.

03/09/2015 10:52 am

We are guardians for out granddaughter—she is 19 and back in HS. She has PTSS and is seeing a counselor. She is in 10/11th grade and doing good. She just went back to school in January–first time in 4 years. We applied to IEP and have not heard anything. Meanwhile they hand out paper for her to join the track team and today I find out through a text from her that she is too old. Why would they invite her and why shouldn’t she be able to participate in all school activities that… Read more »

03/08/2015 3:57 am

My son has autism and made the high school baseball team in CA after not making it his freshman and sophomore year. I was told by the principle and athletic director that they don’t ever have to put him in a game and there is nothing that I can do about it. That I need to be happy that he even made the team. My son loves to play and is a great player. I feel that he is being discriminated on because he isn’t part of the parents in group and has autism. The parents… Read more »

06/17/2015 7:57 am

I am having the same issue in Republic, Mo. I have a senior volleyball player who plays at the level of all the girls but the coach won’t put her in the game. She constantly tell my daughter “this is just summer ball it won’t be this same rotation when school starts”. Well if it is only summer league and we paid just like every other child why can’t she get on the court at ALL? My daughter is black with ADD and has an IEP. I feel they are racist and discriminating against her because of her learning disability.… Read more »

James A
01/16/2015 3:20 pm

This is a response for Kevin. Kevin, Where I live, if your child is home schooled, they are allowed to try-out for their local high school. Same if they attend a Charter School. However, each district has its own policy. I would also check with the state HS athletic governing body.

11/11/2014 10:51 pm

My son has dyslexia and has an IEP. He must attend a private school because the public school cannot adequately accommodate him. He is a hockey player and wants to play team sports for the public high school because his school does not offer sports. Is there anything that can be done to make the public school allow him to play.

10/18/2014 9:04 am

My daughter is in 6th grade and started a charter school which is college prep. My daughter is treated the same. School gives too many limitations on her. 3 weeks of no volleyball, for 71 in math, all grades were passing. She is treated unfairly. All of her grades were passing. Students are starting to bully her again. We have our daughter still go to Volleyball games to support her team. The girls on her on team don’t associate with her. I could go on & on of all the instances. Daughter has ADHD Aniexty… Read more »

08/29/2014 1:29 pm

My daughter has gelastic seizures and has been in band for now her 5th year. She is in her 2nd year in marching band, but is always an alternate. The instructor tells me that he does not think she could memorize the program, but has never given her a chance. She gets good grades. During summer band, she did have a few spells, but once she sits for about 10 minutes, she is fine. He now wants her out because he thinks she may need some medical attention on a trip and i explained to him that she has never… Read more »

07/11/2014 11:19 pm

My son has a. IEP does he still have to have a 2.0 to participate in a sport.

06/30/2014 9:41 pm

My child will be in 11th grade in september at the age of 18 when he goes into 12th grade he will be 19 the school says they cant play ball only up to 18 he has a IEP and a 504 what age can he play up to?

06/19/2014 8:34 pm

My child was diagnosed & received her IEP the end of her sophomore year. She attends a private school who does not recognize her IEP but drafted her a 504. We kept her there for her Junior year but the private school cannot give her the resources that the only public school in town can give her. We are wanting to move her to the public school but are told that she will not be able to play sports her entire senior year. Can they do this? How sad that she would not be able to… Read more »

04/24/2014 2:27 am

My daughter is in eighth grade. She has a IEP. She has been in all star cheer since age 5. Which has helped her self-esteem. She has a 2.5 and needs a 3.0 to tryout for high school cheer. They will not make exceptions. Her learning disability (dyslexia ) affects her GPA. Why can’t they do anything to help our children fit in ????? It is so sad. What is the law ??

02/03/2014 10:42 am

Hi – my daughter has an IEP for dyslexia and cognitive learning from the 2nd grade. She is currently in the 7th grade and doing just fantastic. My question is this – she was a 7th grade cheerleader and getting ready to try out for 8th and I don’t think she can make it because of the level of tumbling passes that she will have to make that is not in her ability to master. Will her IEP/504 help her in not being able to master that piece?

12/31/2013 1:53 am

My kid has a learning disability and plays high school sports. The coach talks to my kid in private and uses her disability to her advantage. My kid comes home in tears and is emotionally wrecked. Is this against the disability act?

08/17/2013 6:07 pm

My daughter has a 504 for anxiety and depression. She has had no record of behavioral problems. We requested that she be placed in marching band and our requests were denied or brushed under the table. The Band Director said she could not be in Marching Band because it was too stressful. I reported this to the school – they are investigating the incident.

How can a school investigate itself and be impartial? I requested to fill out a grievance form, and was told there is no such form. We live in Indiana Any advice?

08/08/2013 12:22 pm

My daughter has an active 504 for several issues one that is an abdominal diagnosis. She has been attending field hockey try outs all this week except for one day it was pouring and i would not let her go because she has been violently vomiting all week. She has made every other try out day but had to stop on occasion to vomit. Her dr ordered an xray yesterday and it came back as her being impacted and there fore she may be toxic. When i brought this to her coaches attention that she may… Read more »

08/01/2013 5:20 pm

My son who is now a Sophmore or is suppose to be that is still to be determined. After fighting with the school all year for not meeting his special ed modifications we are still in a fight. I have the testing completed again, and nothing has changed with his learning disibility. He has been a special ed student since first grade and when he entered high school that really dropped the ball, he has set in ISS twice now for three weeks because they say he didn’t turn in his homework which can become very difficult when one of… Read more »

04/25/2013 12:53 pm

Does having a IEP really stop students from playing sports?

01/12/2013 12:05 am

Does having an iep make you automatically eligible for sports even with out the grades?

Sharon, your advice is best as my child is in very competitive sorts and has an IEP. Each child is unique, but I focus on high grades motivating my child to play. If the coach’s expectations exceed the IEP grades— that is great for my child as the expectations for my child. Pick your battles. Teammates and other parents will have little or no respect for a parent using the IEP to justify a child not meeting grade requirements. I… Read more »

12/18/2012 5:18 pm

Does having an iep make you automatically eligible for sports even with out the grades?

Sharon L.
11/26/2012 10:49 pm

Rebecca, this is a tough one. You can step in and probably get your son back into sports because the IEP supercedes what the coach is doing however he could make it miserable for your son and that could make things worse for him and the team. You need to pick your battles and you may belive that this is one to fight. I would not. I was more concerned about my son fitting in, getting the academics, etc. This same thing happened to hiim and he ended up picking a sport that he could do… Read more »

11/25/2012 11:59 pm

my son is an iep student … has been since first grade, now he is in the tenth grade. He loves sports! this year the school got a new athletic director and he is the football and wrestling coach. even though my son is making the state requirements on the grades he sets his own! what are my sons rights? the coach said they had to have a 2.0 to play. my son got an F but still carried a 2.7 and was told that he had 1 week to bring it up or he was suspended from the team.… Read more »

11/03/2015 11:06 am

following. The football coach told my son if he can’t get his grades up by Christmas he’s kicking him out of Athletic and putting him in a classroom. My son is on a IEP he is at 6th grade level by his IEP and is in the 10th grade and has struggled all year.

11/21/2012 7:43 pm

High School, Sports, NCAA,

I must add to the discussion that if your child is a competitive athlete and wants to attend college, then careful and directed steps must be taken to ensure eligibility. My LD daughter who is going into the 9th grade must comply with NCAA eligibility rules as she wants to attend a division I or II school. The next four years will involve college prep courses and intensive work and sports for her. While the IEP , current assessments, etc. is key, certain high school courses are necessary for a competitive LD athlete with… Read more »

09/17/2012 1:12 am


Can an IEP force a public school to allow my son to play soccer. Soccer is extacurricular but sponsored by the school. He would have to tryout. Im sure he would not make it, but can they be forced to let him practice with them and play a little? Being part of something is more important than being the star player.

09/10/2012 3:10 pm

My grandson was entering his 8th grade year. All summer he went to football practice, football camp, and paid his money for pay to play. On the day of their first game, he was told he did not meet the gpa. He has been with an iep for at least 2 years. Which I have yet to see help him. My daughter has taken him to Dr’s and they say he has ADHD. He had taken numerous on line classes to improve his attention, he has had many therapies, all paid for by his… Read more »

09/01/2012 7:26 pm

Can my son’s IEP exempt him from meeting the eligiblity requirements to play high school sports?

08/02/2012 5:01 pm

My son has learning disabilities. He had played 2 years of flag football.This year they said he had to be cut due to his grades, but he has an I.E.P. In the I.E.P report he’s doing good, but not meeting his grade level. I gave them the I.E.P. My son has to play for another city where we don’t belong.

04/02/2012 10:42 am

My son is not prohibited to play football due to behavior he has demonstrated, as an impact of his disability. The behavior is not of violent nature. The coach told me he can not let him on the team due to his behavior at school. When the three behavioral incidents were discussed with the coach, and it was evident they were not anything that would damage the teams reputation, he stated he could not let him on the team if he was re-evaluated, and found to have a behavior disability, because he may do something that would… Read more »

03/26/2012 6:28 am

My daughter Abigail has an extensive IEP for intellectual as well as social delays. She is in 10th grade. She played JV SOFTBALL FOR HER high school last spring. She tried out this year but was cut and this devastated her. I didn’t know if this was allowed since they were the ones who was pushing for extracurricular activities to help with her social piece of her IEP. We live in Massachusetts and have tried to find anything that relates to this can you help!

03/09/2012 9:30 pm

My daughter has a 504 plan. She has no short term memory. SHe is a C student for the most time but her grades to go up and down as she has alot of difficulty in Math and Science. But she tries and always gives it her best. The goal for her is to run track. Can an exemption be made for a student on a 504 plan? She lives for track and if it is taken away, well, I just don’t want to see it come to that.

01/22/2012 5:37 pm

My middle school child with an IEP plays sports. He has to keep up his grades up to play–that is the bottom line and no exceptions to that. If he is not making adequate progress or is struggling, then he, parents and PPT team can sit and have some discussions. He does not want waivers due to his disability—he wants to compete and indeed he does far exceeding most. At the end of the day, it is about him making progress. He did start out in recreational sports before progressing to school sports. Each child… Read more »

01/21/2012 1:53 am

I really need to know why you cannot get help as a parent to find training to safely hold your child so you can get them to stay by your side when they want to wander away in public. (e.g.the fair, festivals, trick-or-treating,just to name a few examples.) When my autistic son gets in any crowded place he just seems to get aimless. As an 8 yr old he is stronger now and i can’t hold him in a hug like usual much so i can get him to hear me. We live in nc. “please give me advice”

01/20/2012 12:09 pm

Kareena – Is it ‘just’ ADHD? Have you ever had your son evaluated independently or through the school district. An 8th grader reading at a 5th grade reading level is cause for concern. These reading struggles could mean more than just ADHD (Dyslexia?). I would push to have my son go through a neuropsychological evaluation via the school district (IEE) or if possible (and even better) paid by you.

In the meantime – if your son loves sports – are there any recreations sports that he can get in till you get more information?

01/19/2012 2:36 pm

My son is 15yrs ,He is ADHD and has struggled in school from the start. He wants to play soccer for the high school, without the grades they said he can’t. This child has struggled from day 1 and continues to struggle. He is in the 8th grade and his reading is on 5th grade, which affects every class. He does have an IEP which clearly states his reading is far below grade level and in all subjects does not meet learning objectives. How can he not be eligible to sports if his disability obviously effects his grades?

11/29/2011 12:51 pm

My son had a stroke 2 years ago and continues to struggle with cognitive issues, anxiety, and impulse control. He was on the varsity football team and was put on the JV level. He was unable to play in one JV game because of his IEP meeting, the second game he was ill. He was kicked off for not participating
This created extreme anxiety and additional health concerns for my son. My son did talk with the coach last week and the conversation got “heated” on both sides. My sons admits to making insulting comments to the coach after… Read more »

Sharon L.
11/22/2011 8:50 pm

Dawn – Can he take it next year and have it fit into the schedule so he can take music? What about summer school?

11/17/2011 7:46 pm

I discovered this website while researching options for my son. My son, Jake was diagnosed ADHD in 1st grade. He is now a freshman in high school. He takes medication and does well in his classes. He was issued an IEP in 6th grade. Jake has participated in band since then. Music is so important to him. He has learned to play Trombone, piano, guitar and harmonica… mostly self taught except for Trombone which he learned in band and sought out, ON HIS OWN a tutor to help him improve on this instrument. All of his free time revolves around… Read more »

09/07/2011 1:02 am

My has ADHD and the school failed to give him acomodation and he failed 11th grade and now uil refused to give him a waver to play another year of sports because of their four years elligibilty.Is he not protected under the disablity act since it was not his fault that he failed 11th grade. If the school has given him acomodation, he could have pass 11th grade. His hearing with uil is coming soon. I need an advice.