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

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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

  1. Is it legal for the schools to limit cocurriculars ie band and extracurricular s like sports and being a sports manager to 4years even though they are special needs and are attending high school longer than 4years? Is it discrimination?

  2. As an employee of a before and after school program, we have recently been tasked with the care of special needs children who have emotional and behavioral disabilities, along with physically disabled students who require assistance with toileting and medical issues. These children are receiving 1:1 services with a paraprofessional or nurse para during the school day, but the school is not providing them 1:1 paras in our before and after school program. We are not trained as paras. Can the school do this? I’m not comfortable with being responsible for students who’s emotional and physical needs may not be adequately met.

  3. It is the law that if a special education student goes on a school sponsored outing then a special education staff member, that works with the student, must go with the student on the outing. I can’t find anything stating this. Can you point me to where this is stated in the Texas Law?
    Thank you

  4. 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??

  5. 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).

  6. 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?

    • ABSOLUTLEY NOT!!!! Your child has just as much right to go on field trips. The fact that the school would deny you son field trips is appalling. They should have staff that can assist your son. This is dying him a FAPE. Find out why the school is saying because you can’t go your son can’t go.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. My daughter has spina bifida & uses a wheelchair. A company got a grant from the Dept,of Ed to provide free tutoring & recreation after school at the school & provide transportation after. They say it would be too expensive to provide a lift bus & aide & I should get the school district to provide one. Should I ask for an IEP meeting to include this? The tutoring agency won’t even tell me if my child was chosen as there were more applicants than spots. The program starts in 4 days, Should I tell the agency I will provide transportation until the IEP meeting? I am afraid the school district will take this as my agreeing to transport her all the time. The Dept of Ed also told me if the tutoring agency did not write they would work with students with disabilities in their grant, they did not have to. That seems odd.,

  10. My situation is somewhat different as the district vouchers (agency gets the money) my child to a state agency who provides deaf/blind services. To say our relationship has been rocky is a bit of an understatement. My child needs an interpreter to access after school programs. A great after school program is being offered to the whole school. The “agency” is thinking about whether to accommodate or not. The “district” is working on it. It is so frustrating to not have one entity which can make the accommodation. Every request practically requires “an act of congress”. My child seems to be in “no where” land. The program has started and it now looks like I will have to pay for an interpreter out of pocket (at least for a time). Her educational interpreter said she would be happy to do it. Thoughts?

  11. My 6-year old, first grade son has been diagnosed with mild CP and is in the second year of an IEP in his public school. He has not been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, but has started to show some signs of one or the other in his daily school routine now.

    Because he is not making the kind of progress my wife and I would like to see (academically and with his OT and PT goals), we recently decided to enroll him in a martial arts class (karate).

    We believe the extra work he is getting with karate is starting to make a difference (there is a big emphasis on “focusing” in karate).

    Do you think this is something we could add to the IEP when we meet with the team again in January? If so, is the school required to pick up the added expense? (It’s $159/month).

  12. Please reconsider wording the following phrase in your article: “The IEP team must determine which activities are appropriate and include them in the IEP.” as the ruling specifically states that it is the parent and the student’s right to decide which activities are appropriate and NOT the IEP team. The IEP team is charged with the responsibility for defining which supports and aides are required in order to enable access and participation. It does not have the duty nor the right to decide whether or not volleyball was appropriate for this child. The statement in your article is misleading. Thank you for considering clarifying.

    • Cynthia,

      Sue here – P2 are in NH. I’m moderating the blog today and I want to add anything we need for clarification. Perhaps the last paragraph of the Opinion from the Supreme Court review –

      “In sum, the plain language of IDEA regulations 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.320(a)(4)(ii), 300.107, and 300.117 establishes that the extracurricular and nonacademic activities that may be included in an IEP are not limited to those activities required to educate the disabled child. (emphasis added) The plain language of the regulations further establishes that a disabled student’s IEP team is the appropriate entity to determine what activities are appropriate for inclusion in the student’s IEP.”

  13. I agree. When schools encourage kids to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities, even if their grades are not good, this can be the key to keeping the child in school. Pete was not a good student in K-12 but he excelled in sports and he was “All New England” in football and track. If he wasn’t allowed to participate in sports because his grades were poor, he would have dropped out. No Pete Wright, Esq.

  14. It can be vitally important for students with disabilities to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities. In some cases, these may be the very areas where they can excel. This increases incentive to attend school. The mentorship of a coach can also help students translate their successes to the classroom. Even in cases where a school has grade requirements for participation, a student who is failing classes due to a disability should not be excluded from activities for which s/he is otherwise qualified. I have worked with several schools that have built into IEP’s accommodations that allow for the student to participate despite low grades. In every case, the inclusion motivated the student to invest more in the classroom. The support and acceptance fuel success across the board.

    • Debbie,
      My son has a 504 plan and is in the process of transferring into an IEP. The 504 plan rehabilitation Act/IDEA, and OCR all state he should not be excluded because of the grade requirements and GHSA states the school should submit a waiver for students with a disability because they are exempt. The school is not educated on the laws and has failed to submit the form. My son has now said he is quitting school because without basketball he has nothing to work for. I leave for work before he leaves for school. I’m afraid he will stop attending school. I have already had to file a complaint with OCR for teachers failing to follow and accommodate his 504 plan

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