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Students With Disabilities Can Skip Gym If They Play Sports

By guest blogger Gina Cairney

Students-athletes with disabilities in Illinois can now be exempted from physical education if they're participating in adaptive athletics programs, thanks to a new law Gov. Pat Quinn signed yesterday.

The law takes effect immediately, the Associated Press reports, and was prompted by Tyler Woodsworth, a student who has cerebral palsy—a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills.

Previously, the school board only allowed exemptions for students who were participating in interscholastic sports, marching band, or some other activities such as making up course credit.

"People with disabilities who participate in adaptive sports should be given the same consideration as all other athletes," Quinn said in a statement.

The law will give athletes, like Tyler, flexibility to focus more of their learning time on classes they need for college and career preparation, according to Quinn.

The new measure is just one of many efforts being made to provide students with disabilities opportunities to participate in school activities.

In January, the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights offered school districts across the country some guidelines on making "reasonable modifications" and providing students with disabilities an opportunity to participate in school sports equal to that of students without disabilities.

And Unified Sports, founded by the Special Olympics more than 20 years ago, aims to bring students with intellectual disabilities together with their nondisabled classmates.

Photo: Christon Watkins catches his breath during practice with fellow Unified Sports team members at Overland High School in Aurora, Colo. Inspired by the Special Olympics, sports teams that integrate students with disabilities with their nonafflicted classmates are growing in popularity at schools across the country. —Nathan W. Armes for Education Week

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