ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - On Friday, the Education Department told the nation's schools that students with disabilities must be given a fair shot.

The students must be allowed to play on traditional sports teams, or have their own leagues.

The sweeping mandate is reminiscent of another federal order, Title IX, which forever changed the landscape for girls and women 40 years ago.

A number of schools and school districts have included special needs students on their teams for quite a while.

Seventeen-year-old Luke Barber is on the Kirkwood High School wrestling team. He really enjoys the sport, adding it's good for other reasons, too.

Luke has Asperger syndrome, a form of autism spectrum syndrome. His coach says Luke's a good athlete.

The new directive from the federal government to include all students in high school sports is nothing new in the Kirkwood School District. Officials say inclusion has been part of their program since the mid-1990s. The number one priority they say, is safety.

In addition to wrestling, Kirkwood has had special needs students participating in other sports, including football, track and field, lacrosse, and basketball.

Three years ago former Kirkwood athlete and special needs student David 'Chubs' Stillman made national news when he hit a last-minute shot to help his team win.

To Luke, being part of a team is very special.

The Missouri State High School Athletic Association released a statement which said in part:
"The association has long recognized the needs of and made accommodations for qualified disabled students attending its member schools and will continue to examine equal opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities."

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