Students with disabilities who play organized sports outside of school will be able to skip gym class under a new state law.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill Sunday expanding the physical education class waiver in a ceremony at a sports center in Chicago's Irving Park neighborhood.
State law already allows local school boards to grant exemptions from physical education classes to juniors and seniors who are in team sports or the marching band, need other credits to graduate, or want to take certain academic courses to get into top universities. The change to the law extends the gym-class exemption to disabled students, who will have to document their sports participation.
The bill was inspired by Tyler Woodworth, a student at Lockport Township High School who plays sled hockey, the ice hockey equivalent of wheelchair basketball. Players use short sticks to propel themselves along the ice and shoot the puck. Woodworth wanted to take a computer design course but couldn't because of his full class schedule, according to the Quinn administration.
Woodworth, who has cerebral palsy, also didn't qualify for the gym exemption under the state's rules.
"People with disabilities who participate in adaptive sports should be given the same consideration as all other athletes," Quinn said in a statement. "Now, young athletes like Tyler will be able to have more academic flexibility and focus more of their learning time on classes they need to prepare them for college and a career."
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, and Rep. Emily McAsey, D-Lockport, passed the General Assembly without a dissenting vote. The change in law takes effect immediately.