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High school sports: OSSAA director says organization emphasizes fairness, safety

Ed Sheakley says the organization will continue to highlight fairness and safety following Friday's release of guidelines by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights clarifying schools' legal obligations to provide equal access to student-athletes with disabilities.
by Scott Wright Published: January 25, 2013

The guidelines also note that the law does not require that a student with a disability be allowed to participate in any selective or competitive program offered by a school district, so long as the selection or competition criteria are not discriminatory.

“Participation in extracurricular athletics can be a critical part of a student's overall educational experience,” said Seth Galanter, acting assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights. “Schools must ensure equal access to that rewarding experience for students with disabilities.”

Sheakley said he had been in contact with several directors of other states' high school athletic associations after the guidelines were released nationally early Friday.

Neither Sheakley nor any other directors he spoke with had any prior knowledge that the guidelines were going to be released, and Sheakley is continuing to study the lengthy document sent out by the Department of Education.

But he doesn't see anything that points to drastic changes for the member schools of the OSSAA.

“I think our schools are doing a good job with disabled students and their participation in activities,” Sheakley said. “What we look at with disabled students, are reasonable accommodations being made to allow that student to participate, and make sure there's no unfair advantage on either side in those accommodations.

“And we can't compromise safety in those situations. Safety has to be first and foremost. We're all about inclusion, and being able to accommodate disabled students so they can participate.”

by Scott Wright
A lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, Scott Wright has been on The Oklahoman staff since 2005, covering a little bit of everything on the state's sports scene. He has been a beat writer for football and basketball at Oklahoma and...
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