The second, and bigger reason was the passing of a referendum by the US Department of Education on Friday, January 26th that holds requires public schools to provide equal alternative sporting options for students with disabilities. Reminiscent of Title IX, which required public schools to provide equal opportunities for women in sports, this ruling would require schools to provide "reasonable accommodations" to students with disabilities or to create parallel programs. It does not require schools to change the nature of the game in order to accommodate disabled students, nor does it require coaches to guarantee a spot on a team for a disabled student. Rather, it seeks to eliminate situations where students are excluded from sports team because of a disability.
What does this mean practically? A reasonable accommodation may be supplying a flashing light or other visual cue in place of a starting gun for a deaf student on a track and field team. Eliminating exclusion may mean allowing a student in a wheelchair to play wheelchair tennis against their able bodies peers on the tennis team. (I've witnessed a few of these matches and they are AWESOME!)
Unfortunately, like everything else, there is a bit of confusion surrounding the issue and I spent a good portion of the weekend in good spirited debates with people who were fearful that this ruling would "ruin school athletic programs" by "funneling all the money away from the REAL athletes" to "Special Olympics". I understand there were similar protests to Title IX, arguing that equal athletic opportunities for women would virtually "eliminate football" and "confuse girls into believing they were boys." Um.....sure?
Naysayers can rest assured that the results of this new ruling will not produce situations like this:
(Anybody else see that episode? Where Artie called himself a "human battering ram?"
Rather it will produce more situations like this:
And hopefully, more situations like this: