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(16.3) Does my child’s school have to make extra efforts to ensure that my child participates fully in school programs and activities?

(16.3) Does my child’s school have to make extra efforts to ensure that my child participates fully in school programs and activities?

Yes. To ensure non-discrimination, a school must take steps to afford people with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in their programs and activities, and to access and receive the aids, services and benefits that are afforded to people without disabilities on an equal basis. [42 U.S.C. Secs. 12132, 12182; 29 U.S.C. Sec. 794.]  In order to ensure equal participation, the school may need to provide reasonable accommodations (also known as “reasonable modifications”) to a person with a disability as long as the accommodation does not fundamentally alter the program or impose an undue administrative or financial burden on the school.  These accommodations may include changes to school rules, policies or practices, or provision of additional services to allow students with disabilities equal access to educational programs. [See 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12182(b)(2)(a).]

When an entity claims that an accommodation causes a fundamental alteration or undue burden, it has the burden to prove that the claim would not result in a fundamental alteration or undue burden, and to ensure that, to the maximum extent feasible, individuals with disabilities receive the benefits of the program. [28 C.F.R. 35.130(b)(7); 28 C.F.R. Sec. 35.164.] The claim for fundamental alteration or undue burden does not apply to  situations in which the school is obligated to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) under Section 504. [See Dear Colleagues Letter, 60 IDELR 167, (OCR 2013).] To challenge a school district’s claim of fundamental alteration or undue burden, the parent must file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).  See Q & A 24 U.S. Dept. of Education for more information for filing with O.C.R..