Our child is a special education student
and recently received a failing grade on his 4-week progress report.
Now we are told that our child has been declared ineligible for any
athletic competition until the next marking period. Isn’t this
Generally NO. A mix of local school
policy and eligibility standards set by the state athletic association
control eligibility to participate in inter-scholastic athletics.
Eligibility for other co-curricular activities is controlled by local
policy. In Michigan that all schools that field athletic teams belong
to the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA).
In terms of participation in athletic events, while local school
districts can, and frequently do, set higher eligibility standards, a
school cannot permit a student who does not meet the MHSAA eligibility
standards participate in a game or event. If they do, the school may
well face sanctions that could include being required to forfeit all
games or events that the ineligible student participated in.
In general the MHSAA rules requires that the student be enrolled in
school by the 4th Friday after Labor Day, not be older than 19 by
September 1, not have attended more than 8 semesters of high school,
has “passed” the equivalent of 20 credit hours the previous semester,
and had not changed schools without a corresponding move by the
child’s parent or guardian.
Local districts frequently raise the academic standards from the MHSAA
by requiring that the student pass with a C or C- overall average for
all classes. Some add the requirement that the student not fail any
one class. Finally, some determine eligibility on a weekly or monthly
Given these rules, a special education student eligible under IDEA or
a student considered disabled under §504 can easily run into
eligibility problems. As the MHSAA standards are equally applied to
all students, and may impact game safety, it is difficult to have
these requirements waived. Additionally, only the MHSAA can provide a
waiver to its rules. There is a process in place to do that and it
must be followed. See www.mhsaa.com.
The IEP Team is required to include ALL needed accommodations in the
student's IEP. That includes a waiver of local eligibility rules.
Including such a waiver is not common, and when it is done it
recognizes that participation in athletics (or other extra-curricular
activities that have eligibility requirements) is needed for the
disabled student to receive an appropriate education. Such an
accommodation could be to promote the student’s social skills
development or in recognition of the benefit the student may derive
from participating in the non-academic aspects of education. On the
other hand, if the IEP or §504 Plan is silent as to participation, the
school district will argue that the special education or §504 student
is subject to the same requirements as the general student population.
Hope you find these generalized comments helpful.
John Brower, JD
Education Law Center, PLLC
Education Law Center, PLLC · 810-227-9850
Copyrighted Material - All Rights
Reserved - May Not Be Reproduced Without Written Permission