New law offers sports program for students with special needs

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A new all-inclusive sports program is now being offered to special needs students across the state—and it’s all because of a new law named after a Brownsville student.

Special needs children across Texas will now have the same opportunity as their peers who participate in sports thanks to Texas Senate Bill 776, or Zariah's Law. The law ensures that the University Interscholastic League, or UIL, creates an inclusive sports program to provide students with intellectual disabilities access to team sports.

It was signed in June and officially went into effect Wednesday.

"When there isn't anything available, you have to create something,” said Zariah’s mother, Dolaris Zarate. “For the longest time there wasn't anything available."

The law started as a dream for Zariah’s father when he realized his daughter wasn't getting the same sense of belonging as other teens who participate in sports.

"The same opportunity that all other kids have in athletic sports in our high schools and in our middle schools,” said Zariah’s father Sergio Zarata, co-founder of Down by the Border. “It's been a long time for this to come, but finally today, it's here."

The author behind the law, State Sen. Eddie Lucio, says he's excited for this program to get started.

"We've come to realize that they are special and we need to do everything we can to establish programs that will enhance their quality of life and help them achieve some of their own goals," Lucio said. 

Lucio says he will make sure the program is handled correctly.

UIL will be incorporating inclusive sports programs for public school students in middle, junior and high school.


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