Does an IEP make a child ineligible for sports?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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. 

  1. My son has an IEP and passed the basketball tryouts thru 3 coaches. They later found that he has (IEP) some disabilities behavioral and adhd and after giving him an award for being a good athlete and being one of the top three-point shooters they came up with the excuse that he doesn’t meet the standards to be a member in the basketball team. I’ve been fighting this. I’ve asked several times to add basketball to his IEP and school has not allowed to teacher to do it please advice

  2. My 8th grade son with high functioning autism and an iep wanted to join athletics this year. One of the requirements is that all male students in athletics must play football. That is what my son wants to play. We got his physical and all was good. When I spoke to the coach as to the process of getting him approved for athletics the coach told me “I know your son. I’m familiar with him. I will not approve him. Frankly I will not have a player on my team I feel will need to be babysat. He can play all he wants in pe.” During football camp he made him get out of the way to let the better players play and not even give him a chance. My problem, other than his obvious discrimination is that he is also the pe teacher. We live in Texas. Is this an issue that would be beneficial to escalate? He was heartbroken when I had to tell him he was not going to be approved but I don’t want to make his year in pe worse for him if I do.

    • I suggest discussing this with the district’s Athletic Director. Ask him for the district’s, and the Texas University Scholastic League’s policy, and procedures on student’s with disabilities. If these are not being followed, that could be of help.

  3. My son has Down Syndrome and though high functioning, he does require some oversight and his physical and intellectual disabilities would not allow him to “meet all standards” for the high school football team. We asked that he have an opportunity to be involved in some form or fashion with the team (as has been in his IEP for 3 years now). The answer was the packet of “qualifications and requirements” as given to the other prospective athletes with no interest or willingness to accommodate him with any team role that was equivalent with his abilities. Is this legal?

    • It is legal for a state legislature, or authorized agency, or organization to establish rules on eligibility for participating as an athlete. That is not what you are asking for. The IEP team could address him having a role with a team(s). But typically they would not do this without talking to the athletic director. You can try communicating with that person, or a coach that might be receptive to this. You say this was in his IEP for 3 years. This should be shared with the director, & the coaches involved might be willing to assist you.

  4. My daughter has ADHD and an IEP from when she was first diagnosed in first grade. I have asked the school several times to have another done due to failing grades and they refuse to answer me or do one. She is now going into her senior year and just handed me an ineligibility form from her marching band director. Band at our school is a class, a class in which they get a letter grade. The first 9 weeks of the school year is graded as marching band participation. I am extremely upset and confused on how they can legally do this.

  5. Q- my kid has an IEP with reading and math and extended time we we are virtually learning at this point and my child is in the 10th grade he really suffered 1st quarter and we are getting better in 2nd and 3rd quarter but they say he isn’t eligible to play baseball based on 1st & 2nd. Quarter grades but he has until 2/12 to make any work up but example he made a 92 on a large test that counts 60% of his grade but because he is turning it in late they will only allow him to get a max grade of 60 on it how is that fair to children like that and not even try to help them?

    • “Blanket” rules are always a potential problem for students with disabilities. The teacher should have been monitoring assignments & working with you and your son to get things in. But that may not help him now. Check the district policies to see if it addresses situations like this for all students or those with disabilities. Ideally the school should know that virtual learning complicates things for everyone. I am sure your son appreciates you trying to resolve this.

    • Sam, your boy shouldn’t be penalized for falling behind, especially under these circumstances. Sports have saved so many kids from failing and /or dropping out.

      Suggest you request an IEP meeting ASAP to modify his IEP so he isn’t penalized for issues that are likely related to his disability, especially when his education is taking place in a “virtual” school.

  6. My child has a IEP and was told by the basketball coach he couldn’t play because of his grades. Isn’t this punishment for not being able to do it? Is it legal?

    • I’m experiencing the same thing. My child’s IEP has not been followed appropriately, and he has Fs in all of his classes. He was told he can’t compete with the cross country team (which is literally the most motivating thing for him) until the next grading period, even if he gets his grades up before then. It’s bad all the way around because if his behavior isn’t reinforced immediately, it’s not going to be successful as reinforcement. I don’t know what to do about it.

      • Shannon, I suggest you find out what the state rules on this are, if you have not already done so. The school is responsible for providing appropriate instruction to your child. His grades show that they are not doing this. It appears that his IEP needs to be reviewed, and modified. I suggest that you contact your state parent training and information project for information and help. .  

  7. Hello my son has chronic migraines (he sees a neurologist yearly) he also has a congenital heart condition ( sees cardiologist bc of this and they cleared him) the coach cut him from the team bc he has missed 2 practices bc of health issues. Is that legal?

    • Stephanie, that would depend on the rules of the state organization that governs public school athletics, & any policies the district might have. If any rule is not enforced evenly with all students in athletics, that could be discrimination.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Please help us defeat spam. Thank you. *