DOE Guidance on Legal Obligations for Extracurricular Activities

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U.S. Department of Education Clarifies Schools’ Obligation to Provide Equal Opportunity to Students with Disabilities to Participate in Extracurricular Athletics

“Participation in extracurricular athletics can be a critical part of a student’s overall educational experience, said Seth Galanter, acting assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). “Schools must ensure equal access to that rewarding experience for students with disabilities.”

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 Department’s Office for Civil Rights issued guidance clarifying school districts’ existing legal obligations to provide equal access to extracurricular athletic activities to students with disabilities.

In addition to explaining those legal obligations, the guidance urges 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.

This guidance provides:

  • an overview of the obligations of public elementary and secondary schools under Section 504
  • cautions against making decisions based on presumptions and stereotypes
  • details the specific Section 504 regulations that require students with disabilities to have an equal opportunity for participation in nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities
  • discusses the provision of separate or different athletic opportunities

Download the Guidance Document (Jan 25 2013).

In August 2011, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report that underscored that access to, and participation in, extracurricular athletic opportunities provide important health and social benefits to all students, particularly those with disabilities.

These benefits can include socialization, improved teamwork and leadership skills, and fitness. Unfortunately, the GAO found that students with disabilities are not being afforded an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular athletics in public elementary and secondary schools.

GAO recommended that the United States Department of Education (Department) clarify and communicate schools’ responsibilities under Section 504. This guidance document provides that clarification.

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

IEP Pop-Up Question 9.
What about extracurricular activities  in the IEP?

  1. Can a teenager/ child “travel volleyball team” schedule an event (
    competition game) during school hours?

  2. I cannot imagine this is permitted. First, the school should not be “counseling him out” of his current school. Second, there’s no reason they should ban him from attending after school sporting events unless he has caused some kind of disturbance.

  3. My 19 year old son has had a long history of ADHD and trouble with his schoolwork. He’s currently a senior, but has a GPA below 2.0 (1.41) and has an IEP and is taking credit recovery after school three days a week. The school is pressuring us into withdrawing him and placing him into a non-school district “charter” school that allows him to work at his own pace. He is a great kid and loves to interact with people at the school, and has become the girls softball teams “good luck charm”.

    He loves going to the games to support them. Last week in a meeting, the assistant principal told us that if he stays at his current school, with the grades he has, they will ban him from going to the softball games. These games are outside of school hours, and he pays admission to them. Are they permitted to do this, or is this another threat to make him leave? This school has an AICE program, and he attends because my daughter was accepted for her academics. We are feeling like he’s being forced out so that his grades don’t affect their overall numbers. Just curious if this is allowed? It is in Florida.

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