Woodworth: School code needs to be amended
By Adam Woodworth email@example.com April 11, 2012 6:42PM
Updated: May 13, 2012 8:05AM
Did you know that many high schools, per Illinois School Code 105 ILCS 5/27-6(b), offer physical education (PE) credit to high school students who play a varsity sport or are in marching band? These students don’t have to take a PE class based on their participation. They can still take PE, but they have the option to elect out of it because of the physical activity they receive through these other means.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is supposed to ensure that students with disabilities are given equal access. How is a student with a physical disability going to make the varsity football team? I, personally, have never seen anyone in a wheelchair playing running back or wide receiver. How do these students get equal access to the physical education credit being offered to their able-bodied peers?
A case could be made that high schools must offer adaptive varsity sports for their students with disabilities to give these students equal opportunity to access the PE credit. That would be a more costly and complicated solution.
There is a relatively simple solution to this issue, though — allow students who play on wheelchair basketball teams, sled hockey teams, or compete in the Special Olympics utilize those sports as their varsity sports when they are juniors and seniors. Just as a varsity basketball player can elect out of PE, a student in a wheelchair playing on a competitive wheelchair basketball team, sled hockey team, or Special Olympics track/field event should also be afforded that same opportunity.
The major obstacle is the state school code. It isn’t worded to allow for this simple solution. In fact, the state school code makes no accommodations for disabled students in this regard except that if a student needs addition special education services, they can get those during PE class. I would contend that the Illinois School Code is discriminatory. I’ve seen wheelchair basketball in action. I’ve seen sled hockey in action. These students work every bit as hard, if not harder, because of their disability, than their able-bodied peers participating in the able-body version of the sport.
The school code simply needs amended to allow students with disabilities, who play on sports teams outside of the school, to count those sports teams as their varsity sport. They would then be granted the opportunity to have PE waived. Nothing says they have to elect out of PE, but right now, these students don’t even have that option.
And shouldn’t they?
Adam Woodworth is the parent of a student with a disability.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.