New federal guidelines aim to include disabled in school sports
Christian Sewell, right, helps his teamate Jack Cody for Nashua North, against Londonderry, during a Unified basketball game held at Londonderry High School on Friday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
The U.S. Department of Education guidelines on offering athletic opportunities released Friday are hardly a new idea in a state with a long history of helping people with disabilities get out and be active.
"We're trying, and I think we're having some success," said Pat Corbin, executive director of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association. "What I'm most proud of is that New Hampshire has done it because it was the right thing to do. It hasn't been so much in response to federal guidelines."
Corbin said the announcement from the Department of Education is going to raise many questions that don't have answers - including how to coordinate something such as a wheelchair basketball program when the eligible participants are spread across the state. Coming up with the funding when school districts are already strapped for cash will also be an issue.
"There's a lot of questions," Corbin said. "It's not as easy as waving a wand."
According to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, the guidelines are based on a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities - both physical and intellectual.
"A school district is required to provide a qualified student with a disability an opportunity to benefit from the school district's program equal to that of students without disabilities," according to the guidelines.
Districts must make "reasonable modifications" whenever possible, unless the changes would alter the fundamentals or rules of the game.
NHIAA started its Unified Sports program about four years ago with bowling. The idea was to get kids with intellectual disabilities such as autism or Down syndrome in a social, semi-competitive atmosphere. It has expanded to provide teams in basketball, soccer, track and co-ed volleyball, starting this spring.
"We wanted to engage different populations to be in a position to represent the school in some capacity that they never would have in the past," Corbin said. "These are students who would otherwise not have participated in any capacity in any interscholastic sports or club activity."
Basketball started with six teams and grew to 18 in its second year. The modified rules require three players with disabilities on the court, joined by two "partner" teammates.
There is a state tournament, and the winners take home the same championship hardware as their classmates playing for the varsity team would.
"They are getting the sense they're representing their high school in a very real way and comparable way to the other teams. The impact it's had on schools is absolutely dramatic."
NHIAA has also accommodated students with physical disabilities in skiing, which has a system to adjust times for competitors who require modified equipment, swimming and track and field, Corbin said.
Corbin said addressing opportunities for students with physical disabilities will be complicated and need to develop over time.
READER COMMENTS: 1
- Manchester Youth Leadership Academy will start Sept. 23 - 0
- New school year kicks off in style in Wilton/Lyndeborough - 0
- PSU recognizes 3 professors for their scholarship, service - 0
- Unity Elementary School off to late start - 0
- La. Gov. Jindal files federal lawsuit over Common Core - 0
- Central High parents reminded to use caution when dropping kids off - 0
- New Manchester school district standards to give teachers more leeway - 4
- Construction to begin on Hollis playground - 0
- New Derry school year launch honors everyday heroes - 0
READER COMMENTS: 0
- Pair of Aces: Manchester man notches two in five-day stretch - 0
- Dan Tuohy's Granite Status: Bernie Sanders to speak at Labor Day event - 1
- Lakes Region Casino for sale in Belmont - 0
- NH Supreme Court rules 4 teen killers entitled to sentencing hearings - 5
- Police investigate Newport shooting, no threat to public says chief - 0
- UNH football preview: Wildcats thinking big, thanks to returning stars - 1
- On Baseball: Fisher Cats manager Meacham learned a few things, too - 0
- First and 10: Old No. 1 begins as new No. 1 - 0
- NHIAA Girls' Soccer Preview: All eyes on Bedford, Exeter - 0
Where is Shaheen? Hiding from you
Win tickets to see Steven Wright
Enter to win tickets to see Paula Poundstone
Where is Shaheen? Hiding from you
Tuition tax credits make a return