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US Government Orders Equal Opportunity On The Playing Field

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Steve Pickett
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The U-S Department of Education has issued a directive to the nation’s schools requiring that disabled children be given the same access to athletic programs as any other student.

Leaders of North Texas high school athletic programs say they’re doing just that right now.

Irving ISD Athletic Director Joe Barnett oversees 15 sports programs for five-thousand students. He says no one is stopping disabled students from having an equal opportunity to make a team.

“I don’t know of a school district athletic program that is turning anyone away with a disability, if they can compete with the student without the disability. I think everyone would do that, and already does that,” says Barnett.

The Department of Education says schools should not guarantee disabled students spots on athletic teams, but schools can’t exclude a student-athlete based on his or her disability.

At the Notre Dame School of Dallas, all of the students live with cognitive or physical disabilities. The private school provides equal access to its sports teams for all students.

Notre Dame principal Theresa Francis says while some mainstream school may provide opportunities, it does not happen all the time.

“We all hear great stories of wonderful success stories of kids being included, but is that the norm? I don’t think it is, and will it ever be, I don’t know,” says Francis.

The Department of Education directive also calls for schools to create alternative sports teams for disabled students, if schools can’t provide adequate access to existing teams.

Those teams could compete against programs like Notre Dame, which are already providing a game of opportunity for youngsters who just want a shot.

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