January 29, 2013

Not Very Sporting

Hatched by Korso

The ushering in of the Second Age of Obama has already revealed some fascinating glimpses of our nation's future. Take, for instance, the decree just handed down by the Department of Ignorance -- er, Education -- mandating the "reasonable" accommodations that schools must now make to ensure that disabled students can participate in sports programs:

Under the latest rules, schools must tweak traditional programs to give qualified disabled students a shot at playing as long as they can do it without fundamentally changing the sport or giving anyone an advantage.

For instance, a visual aid instead of a starter pistol for the deaf runner would be easy to implement, while adding a fifth base to a baseball field to shorten running distances would be considered too big a change.

If alterations to a traditional team aren't feasible, schools must create a sports program that is open to disabled students, the order says. If there aren't enough students, schools should seek to create district-wide, regional or mixed-gender programs.

Let's forget for a moment that a federal agency making such a sweeping change on a whim that affects every public school in the country is antithetical to the concept of federalism. And let's put aside the notion that such a change, as well-intentioned as it is wrongheaded, should have to go through a legislative body rather than be forced upon citizens by bureaucratic fiat. Hell, let's even ignore how much the thing is gonna cost cash-strapped school districts that can barely afford the programs they already have.

The bottom line is this: the rule will just make schools drop sports programs entirely.

Think it won't happen? You only need to take a look at the havoc wreaked by Title IX (mentioned in the quoted article as the greatest thing since boxed wine). The story hails a huge surge in women's participation in college sports because of that law, but in reality Title IX has decimated overall participation in non-scholarship intramural sports. Colleges rightly decided that it was far easier to cancel those programs than go to the trouble and expense of making sure they were fully compliant with the law.

I'm sure that some schools will make good-faith efforts to make the accommodations mandated by the new regs, and for a little while it might even work. But the vagueness of the language leaves open the huge potential for abuse, and all it will take is one juicy lawsuit and the attendant media coverage that follows for schools to figure out it just ain't worth it. After all, what's "reasonable" is in the eye of the beholder -- at least as far as trial lawyers are concerned.

Hatched by Korso on this day, January 29, 2013, at the time of 9:32 AM


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