School districts must provide the accommodations that children with disabilities need to take part in after-school and extracurricular activities, even if those activities aren’t academically focused, the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled.
“All children deserve the opportunity to get the most out of their educational experience, and that includes after-school activities,” state Education Commissioner Alice Seagren said in a news release about the Oct. 7 decision. “We are pleased the court rejected the narrow reading of federal law put forth by the school district in this case.”
In the case in question, the parents of a 5th grader with autism and Tourette’s syndrome requested that the district consider providing services to allow their daughter to take part in volleyball and other after-school activities. The district countered that federal special education law did not mandate providing accommodations for activities unrelated to a child’s education. The parents fought back, and the state education department backed them up.
The legal question at the heart of Independent School District No. 12 Centennial v. Minnesota Department of Education, is whether the main federal special education law—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA—requires that schools consider accommodations for extracurriculars in a student’s IEP. The high court said it does.
In its ruling, the court said federal regulations “do not limit extracurricular and nonacademic activities included in an Individual Education Program (IEP) to extracurricular and nonacademic activities required to educate a disabled student.”
“Requiring disabled students to prove an educational benefit, when nondisabled students need not, does not afford disabled students an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular and nonacademic activities,” the court’s ruling also states.
So, what do you think of this ruling? Do children with disabilities participate in the after-school activities offered at your school or through outside organizations? Does the school district provide accommodations to allow them to do so? I’d love to hear about your experiences in this area.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.