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Expert Q&A

Can the school suspend an LD child from sports because they do poorly in their schoolwork?

My son Christopher is currently in 10th grade. He was diagnosed with a learning disability in elementary school. Chris is now failing two classes, math and history. I have been in contact with his school and he is being moved into a math support class.

My question is regarding sports. Chris has always been involved in sport wrestling on varsity in his freshman year. Since he is failing two classes he has been suspended from sports for the semester. Do we have any recourse? Chris is devastated by this and I believe if he is made to stay off sports it could have long reaching consequences towards school. Is there anything that we can do?

Your question addresses whether rules regarding participation in interscholastic sports in high school are influenced by the impact of the child’s disability in meeting eligibility requirements. This is an ongoing controversy, and there have been divergent interpretations from courts and agencies with respect to the circumstances under which a student’s disability should be taken into account with respect to whether they meet the eligibility criteria for participation in the interscholastic athletics.

As a general matter, the status of receiving special education services can not preclude someone from participating in interscholastic sports. However, when a student is receiving failing grades, because there may very well be a dispute between you and the school district as to the reason the student is failing, the fact that the child has a learning disability does not automatically mean that they are entitled to maintain their sports eligibility.

You would need to work with the school in demonstrating that his failures were related to problems with his IEP that should lead to the failing grades not being a factor in relation to his eligibility. You should consult with your state Department of Education, state High School Athletics Association, and a knowledgeable special education attorney for how this may be addressed in your state.

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