Homeschool Students Fight to Play on Public School Teams

A couple of days ago, NPR ran a story on All Things Considered about how homeschool students in some states are fighting to play on public school teams. It is an issue fraught with emotion and politics. The laws vary state to state.  Policies are changing from year to year. In fact just in the past two or three years, there has been a lot of legislation being considered by states around the nation whether homeschoolers should be allowed to participate in high school sports.

At this point ten states currently require states to allow homeschoolers access to classes or sports part-time. In most of the other 40 states, the decision of allowing homeschool students to participate in public school programs, activities, or sports is left up to each individual school district. States such as Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah and Washington passed equal access laws allowing homeschoolers access to “interscholastic” programs. Still, homeschoolers have to be in compliance with their state’s homeschool laws and the student must meet the same eligibility requirements as public school students. Finally, the state requires the student to verify that he or she is passing his/her core subjects. This may require homeschoolers to provide achievement scores or academic progress reports even if the state does not otherwise require them.

There are 27 states that allow homeschool students to participate in their version of the University Interscholastic League (which provides services to its member schools in the organization and administration of region and state championships in different sports). Those states include: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming.***

According to this document put out by vahomeschoolers.org, some of the states that don’t allow homeschoolers access include: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

NPR’s Tell Me More told of an Indiana homeschooler who hopes to play soccer professionally, but is unable to play during the fall season because most of the club-players play for their high school teams. Since he isn’t allowed to play, he doesn’t get as much training and playing time as everyone else. Just recently the organization that regulates high school sports in Indiana, the Indiana High School Athletic Association, decided in April (2013) to let home-school students participate on local teams if they take at least one class at the school. As NPR put it, “Indiana attempted to find the middle ground with a recent rule change.”

On April 26 (2013) the Texas Senate passed the Tim Tebow Bill to allow home-schooled student-athletes to play for their local public schools in Texas. The bill, which passed the Senate by a decisive 21-7 vote on April 25, now rests with the Texas House before it’s signed into law, according to The Dallas Morning News. If the bill is successful there, it will open the doors for many home-schooled athletes in Texas.

Recently, the Alabama Senate rejected the Tim Tebow Act (to allow homeschoolers to play for their local public schools), the Arkansas House passed the bill and both Tennessee and North Carolina are currently in the legislative process.

In Alaska, effective July 1, 2013, a full-time student who is enrolled in grades nine through 12 in an “alternative education program that is located entirely in the state and that does not offer interscholastic activities is eligible to participate in any interscholastic activities program available in a public school” if certain requirements are met. Alaska Statutes § 14.30.365(a).

Some states, such as Virginia have wrestled with the issue for a number of years. Earlier this year the Virginia General Assembly considered a bill that would allow kids like him to try out for spots on public school athletic teams. Although the legislation passed the Virginia House of Delegates, the bill was opposed in the Senate committee (8-7) in February 2013. Similar bills have failed in previous years.  Opposing the measure were representatives of education interest groups, including the Virginia Parent Teacher Association, the Virginia Education Association, the Virginia High School League and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.

The argument against letting homeschoolers play is that it is “unfair to public students who must meet standards homeschoolers don’t face.” ”It’s a fairness and equity issue,’ said Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax Station, Virginia).* In a similar sentiment Jennifer Hollars, women’s athletic director of Bloomington High School North (Indiana) said, “I’m not saying parents’ words can’t be trusted, but with homeschooled parents signing off on a student’s grades, I’m not sure the accountability is the same.”

One person pointed out,  it might be argued that oversight of homeschooling athletes is needed to prevent abuse of the situation. For example, students could homeschool for one year, claim that homeschooling had not gone well, and re-enter public schools to repeat that grade. Another person argued that homeschoolers can sleep in until 10am, while their public schooled friends sit in class by 7:30 or 8am.

The athletic director for the Easton, Pennsylvania area school district once made the argument,  ”Students in public schools have to make attendance standards, keep up their grades and participate in school functions to play sports. Home-schooled students do not. That’s a double standard.” There’s been arguments across the nation that homeschoolers just don’t have the same oversight that public schooled kids do.  Homeschoolers in Pennsylvania who meet the same eligibility criteria as public school students may now participate in extracurricular activities of their public school district of residence.

Bob Cox, Indiana High School Athletic Association commissioner point out that skeptics say “Homeschooled kids have lots of other opportunities to play sports in the community.” [article] He also reported, “there is a significant portion of our membership that would say that when a home-school child decides to be home-schooled, they make a choice, but you forego other opportunities.” [NPR]

There are some homeschoolers are opposed legislation to allow homeschoolers to play on public school teams because they worry about the  precedent of public school regulation of homeschools. Many fear that pushing for access laws will only bring more government regulation on homeschoolers in general.  Changing state laws or regulations to allow homeschoolers to play public school sports would undermine the homeschooling freedoms of all of us (Home Education Magazine).

With young kids, this is an issue our family has been keeping a close eye on. We definitely want to keep abreast of the legislation in our state. This debate certainly raises a lot of passion on both sides of the aisle. Personally, it makes me cringe a bit to hear about the “lack of oversight” and to hear the distrust of homeschoolers to provide their kids with a quality education especially when statistically the quality of homeschooler’s education is on par, if not better than that of their public schooled peers.

For more on that see my post on Homeschool Successes

To read more you may want to visit these websites and articles: 

NPR: All Things Considered Home-Schooled Students Fight To Play On Public School Teams

See the HSLDA’s list, State Laws Concerning Participation of Homeschool Students in Public School Activities

*See the article in the Washington Post: ‘Tebow bill’ would let home-schoolers try out for public school teams.

See this article in the Dallas News.

‘Tebow’ home school sports bill sacked in Va. Senate

Homeschool World: Can Homeschoolers Participate In Public School Programs?

Homeedmag.com: Why the Question of Homeschoolers’ Playing Public School Sports Affects All Homeschoolers

 

 

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