Liverpool (WSYR-TV) -- Schools across the country are getting a very clear reminder that disabled students should be given a fair shot at traditional sports teams.
Federal education officials want to make clear that schools may not exclude students who have a disability from trying out and playing on a team, if they’re otherwise qualified.
According to several school and league officials in Central New York, students are routinely part of school teams and have been for several years. Take Marcus Welch, for example. He was a deaf basketball player at Westhill in the early 90s that scored over 1,000 points for his career.
"Seven or eight years ago we had a young girl in our swim program that ended up qualifying for the Sectionals. We had to have a special system to sprinkle cold water on her when she got near the turns so she would know when to turn because she was a blind student,” said Liverpool’s Athletic Director George Mangicaro.
At both ends of the gym at Liverpool High School is the saying "Preparing for the World Begins Here" and Mangicaro says that really does apply to any of the students in the district who want to go out for, and play, on Liverpool sports teams.
"We had a football player that was our manager one year and came out the next year, we got him in a game, we threw him a pass, you'd have thought from our sideline we just scored the game-winning touchdown,” continued Mangicaro.
Mangicaro says he can’t remember in his 20 years as athletic director, the issue of a disabled student being denied the opportunity to play on an area team. He says in Liverpool, the only requirements for playing is that students pass a physical exam and are academically eligible – just like any other student athlete in the district.
The Education Department not only clarifies legal obligations, it also urges schools to work with community groups to increase the athletic opportunities for students with disabilities, such as opportunities outside of school.