The City Section Board of Managers on Monday approved a move to become the first high school sports section in the state to offer an inclusive sports-level division for individual students with disabilities.
"This is history," said Teri Hayden, coordinator of sports programs for the Los Angeles Unified School District's adaptive physical education program.
Beginning in 2016, track and field will be the first sport in which students with disabilities will be allowed to compete during the regular season and for a section championship under California Interscholastic Federation sponsorship. It will be the first time students in wheelchairs will be allowed to compete in races.
There have been "AA" competitions for students with disabilities at City Section track-and-field championships under the sponsorship of the LAUSD, which were separate from the regular championships. Athletes received different medals, and no students were allowed to compete in wheelchairs. This will be the first time the competition receives CIF sponsorship.
Other state associations have been holding competitions for athletes with disabilities.
"It's opening a door for students with disabilities," Hayden told the Board of Managers, meeting at North Hollywood High.
Schools will be allowed to seek help from the Division of Special Education to help pay for CIF assessment fees for student athletes.
Hayden said she is hopeful that if the City Section inclusive sports division goes well, the other nine sections will follow with their own divisions.
Roger Blake, executive director of the CIF, praised the decision to create an inclusive sports division.
"It's absolutely great," he said. "I'm elated. They've already had an inclusive program going on. I hope the rest of the state will soon step up and follow the model of L.A. As much as everyone likes to give a hard time to LAUSD, this is one of the areas they are the leaders."