By Nicole Brewer

By Nicole Brewer

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When it comes to extra-curricular sports, the benefits often extend beyond the playing field. From communication and team work to confidence and leadership skills, the federal government wants to make sure all students have equal access to social and health benefits, cultivated through athletics.

In a thirteen page letter issued by the White House Friday, Seth M. Galanter, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, told school districts across the country they must give disabled students equal access to sports or risk losing federal funding.

“I think that’s fantastic because I think these children deserve a right to participate like any other student,” said Bill Scully, a guidance counselor at Sterling High School in Somerdale, New Jersey.

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Having started two athletic programs for disabled students, he hopes the document will encourage schools to think outside the box.

According to the letter, schools won’t have to change rules of a game, but they will have to make “reasonable modifications” to ensure that students with disabilities have the same opportunity as everybody else.

Scully said, “Let’s let them be managers, let them be stat people. If they can’t participate evenly with peers, then let them do something. In their world, that will mean everything.”

To read the entire letter, visit: www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201301-504.pdf

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