So much for certain Rapid City school board members' plan to focus on making elite athletes more elite. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan just told the Rapid City Area Schools and every other school in the country to stick with the "everybody plays" philosophy. And when Secretary Duncan says everybody, he means everybody:
Students with disabilities must be given a fair shot to play on a traditional sports team or have their own leagues, the Education Department says.
Disabled students who want to play for their school could join traditional teams if officials can make “reasonable modifications” to accommodate them. If those adjustments would fundamentally alter a sport or give the student an advantage, the department is directing the school to create parallel athletic programs that have comparable standing to traditional programs.
“Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement announcing the new guidance Friday ["Education Department Tells Schools to Find Ways for Disabled Students to Play Sports," AP via Washington Post, 2013.01.24].
Secretary Duncan still spends too much time talking basketball and not enough touting high school debate. But he firmly believes that giving every student a chance to play sports is a civil rights issue. His department has thus prepared these guidelines to help schools meet this civil rights obligation.
Not included in the document: any mention of an obligation for public school districts to provide showcases for elite athletes or their parents dreaming of winning a free ride to Duke and making a career out of throwing balls. It looks like Rapid City school board members will need to have some focused, passionate discussions of meeting these new requirements for disabled students before they pour resources into winning the Class 11AAA State Championship.