Friday, August 24, 2012

May an IEP Team "Disallow" a Student's Participation in a Nonacademic or Extracurricular Activity?

Occasionally I have cases in which an IEP team has refused to provide an accommodation or service for a student participating in a nonacademic activity on the basis that the IEP Team either believes the activity is not "educationally necessary," and/or, it has concerns about whether the student should be constrained from participating in the activity due to health, fatigue, and safety factors.

Let’s take, for example, "Abby," a student who qualified to be on her school’s mock trial team. She has nonprogressive muscular dystrophy, uses a wheelchair, and needs the same assistance for team practices and events as the assistance provided to her between 8:30 a.m.-3:45 p.m. each school day (e.g., assistance with the bathroom, carrying her backpack, laptop computer, books and papers, and getting things in and out of it, etc.  When Abby makes the team, instead of arranging for and scheduling the services she needs, the IEP calls a meeting and hands her parents an IEP amendment stating:

"Abby will be allowed to participate in nonacademic and extracurricular activities only to the extent that it is educationally necessary for her and the IEP team has determined that it is medically appropriate.  Abby will not participate in any nonacademic activities until she has been evaluated by an orthopedist, and the orthopedist has completed and returned to the IEP Team a report of the evaluation findings and responses to the team’s questionnaire.  After the orthopedist has submitted this information to the IEP team, it will meet and determine the nonacademic school activities in which Abby will be allowed to participate and the conditions of that participation."

When I read an amendment like this, I tend to conclude: (1) the school district is trying to avoid supplying and paying for the services that the student needs in order to participate in an activity for which he or she is qualified; (2) the school district is acting contrary to the federal statutes that protect the rights of students with disabilities to be educated to the maximum extent appropriate with nondisabled students, including participation in extracurricular and nonacademic activities. See, 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.320(a)(4)(ii), 300.107, and 300.117; and (3) that the school district has chosen to be part of the problem that Congress intended to cure when it enacted the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). More specifically:
The plain language of IDEA regulations 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.320(a)(4)(ii), 300.107, and 300.117 establish that the extracurricular and nonacademic activities in which a student may participate are not limited to those activities that are "educationally necessary."

Neither the IDEA nor its implementing regulations confer any power on an IEP Team to "disallow" the participation of a student covered by the Act in an extra-curricular or nonacademic activities.
Neither the IDEA nor its implementing regulations confer any power on an IEP Team to make a determination of "medical appropriateness."

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides: "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability . . . shall, solely by reason of his disability, be excluded from the participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal assistance." 29 U.S.C 794(a).
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 provides: "No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, program, or activities of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity." 42 U.S.C. 12132.

The School District made no offer to pay for the medically-unnecessary evaluation although when a School District requires such an evaluation for a student served under the IDEA, the evaluation must be provided at no cost to the parent (Raymond S. v. Ramirez, 918 F. Supp. 1280, 1293-1294 (N.D. Iowa 1996)), and the child’s parents may not be required to use their medical insurance to pay for the evaluation, or the co-pay amount. Id.

1 comment:

  1. What is the outcome of the school's attempt to disallow this student to participate in this activity? We have only had one (very long) IEP for my son when he was of preschool age. The experience definitely tilted me towards my decision to homeschool.

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