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 ruled.
The case involved a 5th grader with autism and Tourette’s syndrome whose parents asked their district to consider providing services that would allow her to participate in volleyball and other after-school activities.
The district, in the suburbs north of Minneapolis, countered that federal special education law does not mandate providing accommodations for activities unrelated to academics. The parents filed a complaint with the state education department, which ordered the district to convene the child’s individualized education program, or IEP, team to discuss supplementary aids and services she might need to take part in extracurricular activities.
The legal question at the heart of the case, 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—requires schools to consider accommodations for extracurricular activities in a student’s IEP. The state high court determined that it does.
In its ruling this month, 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,” it found.
A version of this article appeared in the October 20, 2010 edition of Education Week as State Court Rules for Wider Extracurricular Inclusion