Bill Seeks To Encourage Disabled To Play Sports

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—Students with disabilities could gain more avenues to participate in sports if a bill co-sponsored by a Triad legislator is passed. 

Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, is one of five bipartisan sponsors of House Bill 314, which would provide up to $300,000 in annual financing toward developing pilot community-based adapted sports programs for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, House Speaker pro tem, is another sponsor. The bill would take effect July 1 if passed.

The financing would be handled by the state Department of Public Instruction or State Aid for Public Schools. It would require equal access to extracurricular athletics for students with disabilities, as related to a January 2013 edict from the office of civil rights for the U.S. Education Department.

Pilot programs would be required to develop “specific strategies to overcome barriers to the participation of students with disabilities ... and incorporate a philosophy of personal empowerment for those students.”

Programs may be conducted in one or more local school administrative units. The goal is gaining participation from local universities, community colleges and other community organizations.

Lambeth said no districts have been identified to conduct the pilot programs.

“We have worked with the Department of Public Instruction to see where there exists the best opportunity,” Lambeth said. “Physical education is important to all children but particularly important to those with some disability with limited options.

“Because there are questions about the best approach, this bill provides funding for the department to work with a local district to develop a program and to monitor its effectiveness.”

Lambeth said the bill was crafted in part in response to the reaction of the Mount Tabor boys track team winning the 2014 state 4-A outdoor track-and-field championship.

In 2009, the N.C. High School Athletic Association made a place for disabled athletes to compete with their high school teams and even score points in the state meets. The 2014 season was the first time that those athletes played a role in helping a team win a state championship.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal,