September 17, 2021

Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA)

Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) is subject to the same laws that apply to all public schools because its member school districts and schools are recipients of Federal financial assistance from the Department that have ceded to AIA controlling authority over portions of their interscholastic athletic programs. AIA was originally created by member districts and AIA’s authority as a governing body comes from local governing boards (i.e., school boards), which authorize their respective high schools to participate in AIA-officiated matches. Although membership in AIA is voluntary, many Arizona public high schools offering competitive interscholastic programs are AIA members. Failure to join AIA precludes an Arizona public high school from engaging in interscholastic athletic conferences with other Arizona schools. AIA establishes qualifications for the members of its Executive Board and exercises ultimate authority over qualifications for coaches and participating athletes, rules governing athletic competitions and tournaments, and scheduling athletic competitions.

AIA’s Executive Board is made up of representatives from various member school districts and schools. In addition, AIA is empowered to sanction and expel public high school athletics programs and athletes for violations of AIA rules. Moreover, AIA members are required to pay annual membership dues to AIA. Thus, AIA, while not a direct recipient of Federal financial assistance, is also subject to the same laws that apply to public schools.

US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights is responsible for enforcing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II), 42 U.S.C. § 12132 et seq., and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 35. Title II prohibits discrimination based on disability by public entities. As public entities, the AIA member public school districts and schools are subject to the requirements of Title II. AIA is also subject to the requirements of Title II because the regulation implementing Title II, at 28 C.F.R. § 35.104, defines a public entity, in part, as any state or local government, and any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a state or states or local government. AIA’s control over public school districts’ high school interscholastic athletics, as discussed above, makes AIA an instrumentality of Arizona public school districts and schools, and thus a public entity for purposes of Title II.

Private high schools are also members of the AIA but are outside the scope of OCR’s investigation.

Source: US Department of Education