Does an IEP make a child ineligible for sports?

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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. Because my child requires a little bit more help in English, we had to choose between 7th grade athletics, and English of course I choose English. I just feel that’s so unfair to him!!!!!! Is this legal?

    • Unfortunately, this is pretty common at middle & high schools. They do try to figure ways to meet a student’s needs without taking something away. Unless your state has rules about this, it is not likely that it is illegal. To me the key is whether a student is benefiting from this class in the past & now, especially if they are taking special ed English, & general ed English. You could research how other schools in your state or country have found ways to address this..

  2. Hello. My son IEP teacher recommended him to join wrestling. Is fees covered under his IEP program. Or does he need to pay the so called sports fee?

    • Fees are not covered under the IEP as he is not required to participate in sports in order to get FAPE.

  3. My son plays basketball, he had to miss practice due to his dr appointment check up for his type 1 diabetes. This is something he has no control of and has to go. The coach punished him for missing practice, so the next day he had a game and he didn’t get his starting position for the JV game. The coach told him since he missed practice he couldn’t start the game. the doctor appointment is an excused absence. how does the 504 plan protect him from getting punished for seeing his specialist.

    • 504 & the Americans with Disabilities Act deal with discrimination toward those with disabilities. If the coach and the district are following this with every athlete, then it would not be discrimination.

  4. Hello. I have a 17 year old Junior Son with very High Functioning Down syndrome. He has played basketball mainstream since 4-8th grade. We didn’t play 9th grade. He didn’t make the team 10th grade but was allowed to be there their manager. It is his Passion and the sport he loves. He is very good and went to 2 days of tryouts now for 11th grade and did everything else the other kid did. He is even a better shooter than some and an amazing 3 pt shooter. He didn’t make the team but again told him he could be the manager of the team.

    I’m wondering what can I do. He is so sad because he tried so hard. He said he does t want to be the manager he wants to play the game. Thanks in advance.

    • Only thing I can suggest is appealing directly to the head coach or perhaps one of his assistance to explain how important this is to your son. Generally, there is a lot of pressure on coaches at this level to win. Perhaps you can convince them that playing in a game is not as important for him as being on the team, & that he would not take up a lot of their time. If one or 2 of the players would support him being on the team, & be his buddy, that could help, The peer could help the coaches see that it would not take that much of their time. If there is a district athletic director they might be of some help. But they do not want to appear to be questioning a coach’s judgement. Good luck.

  5. My son has a 504 plan for ADHD and medical along with server social anxiety and yet my sons school keeps saying their here to help but when I reach out rarely call back and the football coach acts like he doesn’t have to abide bye the plan and makes my son ride the bench because his health problems also has told my son that him going on himself was a good job just so he could stay at practice but yet when he can’t help but go to the bathroom before and it keeps him form practices he’s punished so is this coach allowed to punish my son for this or is he in the wrong he claims that It isn’t a Recreational sport but the school considers it and Extracurricular activity so what or my child’s rights here and we or in ky so some insite would be greatly appreciated

    • To me, it comes down to trying to get the district 504 coordinator, & top administrators willing to look into this.

  6. Our son has been diagnosed with ADHD by a doctor. He was given a 504 plan and a teacher to help him with his school work. The assigned teacher got sick in the middle of the semester and couldn’t help our son any more. When the teacher was assigned his grades all improved to Cs and better. When the teacher could not help him anymore he failed 2 classes making him ineligible for the fall soccer team. His grades were not made official because we enrolled him in summer school and he ended up passing both of the make up courses with Cs and better. Despite this they said that per Ohio law he is still ineligible to play soccer. Several problems exist in this situation. Can somebody help us with the answer to this.

  7. My 17 year old, HFA and ADHD, was kicked off the school archery team because of a fight. We did report bullying to the school 3 weeks prior to the fight. A team member instigated and said “Go on and hit me, I’d like to see you get expelled” and so my son hit him. He got a 3 day OSS, which he deserved, but was later told he could no longer be on the team because the father went to the school. My son has never been in trouble before. This is his only extracurricular activity he has had for the last 5 years.He has an IEP but we never had any need to put anyhting in writing for this type of behavior. Is there anyway to fight this.

  8. if the student is not allow to play football or any kind of sport or band that if a school takes funds from the goverment why not just take the funds away from schools that dont let a iep student play football or band or any kind of things that the school has. why not ban the school from having a football team if they dont treat the iep student fairly. just dont allow schools to have any kind team if they dont let iep students play in band or any kind sport. now that will work and that way no one is ever turned down for any reason and if they do, that school will stand to lose its funding and football and band if they dont stop what they are doing. that is the best way to take care of it.

    • Wilson,
      I agree with you 100% but let me throw this issue in as well. If teams get taken away from schools then you will have the parents of non-disabled children begin to push back because they will feel that their children are paying the price for what the school did. If teams are taken away from school what happens to the rest of players on the team?

  9. My son has a 504 plan and has been diagnosed with adhd along with anxiety and depression. He gives all he can and still does not get a 2.0 gpa. Sports is the
    Only thing he really has. When in sports, he can focus and his depression and anxiety are lifted. By taking away sports as a consequence is detrimental. I’d rather see him spending time as a part of something and something structured vs. nothing at all. I feel by not being involved in a sport, he could easily lean toward drug abuse. He has such potential with one sport in particular and taking away will leave him feeling hopeless and unmotivated. Is this equal

    • I am chiming in as sports have grealty benefitted by own kids. There are some school districts who allow kids to play with lower GPAs as the value of playing the sport a wii keep some “off the streets” and others focused. When it comes to sports, I think outside the box as some kids may not qualify according to their district policies. If he cannot play, there are club teams, elite teams, travel teams, etc. Call the local athletic association and ask about other opportunities to participate in sports. There are waivers you can ask about also at the athletic department. Does his current IEP meet his needs to insure progress and meet his long term goals? He can also attend spring and summer sports clinic of his favorite sports. There are options beyond his school.

  10. Hello. My son is 17 years old, has an IEP that includes ED (emotional disturbance) listing anxiety and depression. He was kicked off the high school Football team because the coach says he obviously has a problem with authority. When I explained what my child’s anxiety can look like at it’s worst including impulsive behavior and black outs his response was that he was trying to change the program for the good and that he could not allow my son on the team. My son’s depression has increased and is having an even harder time controlling his anxiety. Do we have any legal rights?

    • Yes, but the issue is how, & to whom to present your situation. I would suggest a written communication to the principal & special ed director explaining the situation & asking to meet with them. Since this could be an issue of discrimination, a complaint to the Office of Civil Rights would be an option, if the district is not able to address this to your satisfaction.

      • Thank you Chuck. I am concerned, for my situation, with the relationship that the principal, coach and AD seem to have.
        My son was kicked out of the locker room by one coach and was asked for his jersey by the head coach at half time. He didn’t have a shirt on! The locker room was locked so I went to the AD and simply explained I needed to take my son home but I needed his stuff. When we got to the lockerroom, police approached me and the AD took my son into the locker room. My husband and son left immediately. My other son plays on the team and I went to get a message to him that I’d be back. I was followed by the police until I left the property! The onset of PTSD, anxiety and depression came from an injury at school in May 2013. There’s history

    • Crystal, your son is talented. Football is a difficult game to learn as a lot of strategy and physciality are involved. Chuck gave you some great advice below. In the meantime, what is he doing now? Is he on any other team as “team” is important to many students as well as ongoing physical conditioning which is good for mental health. If he loves contact sports, have you looked at some other contact sports that are now gearing up for the season such as wrestling, boxing, MMA, etc. There are coaches and clubs who may have more experience working with students like your son in those clubs from what I have seen. There are other football leagues in most states that kids can join year round but you have to seek them out.

      • Thank you! Football is his passion. Not playing anything right now. He has withdrawn. We have history with the school as I started to explain in my response to Chuck but didn’t have enough room. My son is a senior. This was his first year healthy enough to play since his freshman year and it was his last year! So far, we had the best year of HS yet. Perfect attendance, A’s and B’s, football 6 days a week. For the first time in 6years my son felt almost normal. I do a lot of praying (please don’t be offended) and closet crying.

        • Don’t give up. There are colleges (that have sports) that offer more specialized support services to assist kids with ED, etc. There is a website called Players Tribune that has many inspirational stores of elite athletes in the NBA, NFL, Hockey, etc. I hope for now he can still stay active in a club sport or another school sport. Exercise is important for overall well being. Boxing coaches, MMA coaches may know how to better work with your son and from my experience from such coaches they have dealt with kids with ED. Look at your local Police Activity League or one in the city close to you for support as they may be able to offer some guidance with other options for your son for sports. There are always other options.

  11. My daughter is 17 and I believe she has been discriminated against because she is a type 1 diabetic. The sponsor lied and said she made the team and whenever school started, started making excuses why she could not perform with the group. She made the team as a spirit leader. The sponsor had to pay me all my money back. I took my daughter off the squad because of this. I had a meeting were she finally came clean and said she made a position on the squad for her because her scores were not high enough to be a cheerleader. She did not get this position from the school, so they offered her a cheer management position. I spent over 1300 dollars and I said no. She would not be anyone’s flunky. I filed an OCR and UIL complaint. What else should I do?

  12. My son is a Type 1 diabetic and is a great athlete… He plays baseball for his high school team… the-coach found out he is a diabetic. I’m corcened he will cut him now for varsity, I’ve never hid the fact that he is a diabetic I just never told the coach because I was always concerned he would discriminated against. I certainly wrote it down on all required paperwork that he is diabetic…He does have a 504 plan… His stats speak for himself and he has been contacted by a few college coaches… We all know baseball is full of politics and favorites, now this really is concerning to me…. Will I have a case?

    • It should not matter, but the coach needs to know this information so he can make accommodations for him. my daughter is a type 1 diabetic also. It is against the law for anyone to discriminate against him due to his disability.

  13. hi my name is David I have a IEP I was wondering could I still get a football scholarship with an IEP

    • David, work with your athletic director and guidance counselor. An IEP will not disqualify you at all as I know many college athletes who had IEPs/ 504s in high school. If you are in high school, you should understand NCAA eligibility requirements and work with your guidance counselor and someone who understands that process. How are your grades, test scores, etc.? NCAA eligibility is a process and involves meeting requirements. Football is important but so are your reading levels, writing, etc. Colleges offer support and it is important to find the right “fit” to provide support or even structured support. Football scholarships are very competitive — many players go D II and III with little or no scholarships. Talk to someone who can help you track towards your goals.

  14. My son plays soccer in high school and has one F and was not able to play. My son has ADD can they do that? I mean it’s obvious that he is going to struggle and have maybe a bad great. Can that be held against him even when he is diagnosed with ADD

  15. Students with disabilities have the right, under Section 504, to an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities at their schools. A couple of years ago, the Office for Civil Rights issued a guidance letter to clarify school districts’ legal obligations to provide equal access to extracurricular athletic activities to students with disabilities.

    Here is a link to another blog post that will answer many of your questions about extracurricular activities and school sports.

    • Yes, but can you clarify if students with hidden disabilities and learning disabilities and not meeting a specific GPA can be denied an opportunity to participate in social, recreational and school athletics since it is directly related to their disabilities? And obviously, the school is not doing enough to help accommodate the student, since if they were, then the student would not be failing.

      Unfortunately, the OCR guidance letter does not clarify whether students on IEPs and 504s who are failing courses should still be granted the opportunity to play if they are not meeting a previously determined GPA as defined per their schools/districts.

  16. Help!! My daughter is 15 has cheered on Varsity squad for her 8th grade year. She tryed out for highschool and didnt make it. She is special and needed a little extra help and was denied.

  17. My child is in 504 & has been since middle school and every year he is close to being ineligible for sports/4-H, which he dearly loves. He is currently ineligible due to grades, but no one will tell me if there are any exceptions. This seems like discrimination to me, but I have looked & emailed several people asking, no one replies. Is there no leniency with children under 504 for doing extra curricular activities? My son asked me the other day, “Mom, what’s the point in participating in any sports or being active in 4-H, if I can’t make my grades?” I had no response and no one at the school can tell me either. He is ADD and Dyslexic.

    • I am experiencing the same thing. The effort given by my child, with inconsistent access to provisions has rendered her academically ineligible and no one seems to think that this is discriminatory.
      If you happen upon remedy would you email me? Im preparing for a PPT on Tuesday and the clock is ticking to get resolution for the current season. Just doesnt seem fair.

    • I am also experiencing the same thing. My son was told this year two days before his game that he couldn’t play football because he got an f in math the year before. Is this legal?. And then to find out there is a hand full of students that also couldn’t play do to failing math.
      Then when I ask why I wasn’t told this before I went to buy my son new cleats and gear they tell me it standard practice for all Jr high schools. But come fist game first game they have one of the kids that had an f playing that’s just bs!.

      • Most highschool player will mostly get grade cut. Grade cut is when u dont meet all ur classes with a good grade or have a 2.0 gpa. I play football in highschool right now and I have a learning disability which is ADD and ADHD. Tutoring is really the only choice to keep me up and playing sports like wrestling and football. Everything is possible. You just have to be on top of everything u want for ur kid. Trust me

        • My son has a learning disability due to a cyst on his brain with an expensive neuro psych report. I pay approx $100 a week for a Math tutor. I am on top of everything I want for my kid. He still fails math due to them not following his IEP.

  18. Hi,
    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 through, but in High School, these issues have resolved. I have evidence of video’s showing my son’s ability to play competitive elite travel baseball. What rights do I have?

  19. 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?

  20. 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

  21. 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?

    • 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.

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

      • 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

    • Yes your child is eligible to play sports because of the iep he cannot be denied the school has to sign a wavier for him speak to your child’s football coach or principal

  22. 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 she never had a chance to do, during her period of neglect and abuse? Help please. Perhaps acknowledging her IEP would be a circumstance that would allow her to be that normal high school-er that she is trying to be. TY Vicky

  23. 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 are all friends and have freshman kids playing on the Jv team. Team is not playing my son who is a better player than the freshman. I don’t know what to do.

    • 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. I’m frustrated and don’t know what to do. This is her last year of school, with her difficulties with learning her GPA suffers at times. So her goal was to get an academic scholarship, but at this rate she will never touch the court her senior year. She is discouraged and her confidence in her skills are suffering.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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 disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome

  27. 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 needed anything. We go to all band functions just in case she did need us. She loves the band and would be devastated to have to stop. She does not require special attention from anyone during these spells. I will do everything in my power to keep her in band.

  28. 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?

  29. 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 play her final year of school.

  30. 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 ??

  31. 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?

  32. 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?

  33. 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?

  34. 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 need day for treatment of this issue she told me that she has not given 100% at the practices and has a slim chance of even making the team. Help this is all due to a 504 diagnosis.

  35. 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 his disibilities in obtaining information and you have him at a high school level when it shows that he is at a fourth grade learning level. We are now fighting the fact that they did not do their job and yesterday the coach informs me he is not allowed to be in athletics, Not Right!!!!! he has done nothing wrong. Need advice

  36. 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 would not put my child in that position. But, each child is unique as well as teams and coaches. Sometimes, it takes a second chance with a team to raise those grades and seo esteem. Pick your battles.

    • Hi, how is it going with this? My son is a junior with an IEP. He has been on the varsity team since Freshman year and is trying to get a T&F scholarship, this year is the important year, but now he may not have a high enough gpa to run during track season! I can’t believe this, I could really use any info. that might help…
      I’m in northern CA

  37. 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 outside of school that made him a lot happier.

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