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Virginia Senate punts 'Tebow Bill' away

Virginia state senators on the Education and Health Committee on Thursday killed legislation that could have allowed home-schooled children to participate in the athletics programs at public schools, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

The Virginia High School League has rules that bar home-schooled students from participating in interscholastic competition, but this bill would have made that rule illegal. It was defeated 8-7 by the Republican-controlled committee, even though all seven Democrats voted against it. Republican Sen Harry B Blevins broke party lines and voted against it as well.

Mr Blevins, drawing on 50 years of experience in education and as a coach, told the paper he felt the law would be unfair to students and their families in the public schools who go to great lengths to comply with several rules and regulations. It’s not just about trying out for a team on the basis of athletic ability, he seemed to imply.

And he’s right: Public-school athletes need to maintain certain grade and attendance standards, which home-schooled students wouldn’t, and public-school athletes may be subject to other regulations as well, set by the state high school association or state board of education. For a home-schooled student to just walk onto a team after a tryout, without meeting all those regulations his teammates would have had to live up to over the years, it didn’t seem right.

“You could be the greatest football player on the team, but if you do not show up Friday, you don’t get to play,” the Times-Dispatch quoted him as saying. “This changes all that. … I think a lot of parents don’t think this is something that would be fair to the kids that have gone through the system that they have to go through, and I agree with them.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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  1. Ten states in 2000 required public schools to allow home-schooled students access to athletics and other interscholastic activities at public schools: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. All 10 except Utah had equal-access laws on the books, while Utah required access through State Office of Education regulations rather than by statute. Arizona’s and Oregon’s laws only require school districts to allow access to “interscholastic” activities.

    Today, this trend is growing. By April 2011, 12 states had been added to the list: Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.

    In Illinois, nonpublic school students, including home-schooled students, may request to enroll part-time in public schools. The school board has the authority to accept such students into part-time attendance with restrictions but is not required by law to do so. Children with disabilities enrolled in nonpublic schools (including home-schools) have a right to enroll part-time in public school. According to the Illinois High School Association, each local school determines whether a home-schooled student enrolled at and attending the public school can participate in the school’s interscholastic and activity teams. Other requirements apply.

    In Maryland, an intermediate appellate court ruled in Thomas v. Allegany County Bd. of Educ. that private school students did not have a right to participate in a public school extracurricular activity. A private school may include home-school athletes on its teams without losing its eligibility, according to the Maryland Public Schools Secondary Athletics Association’s “Approved Standards of Competition.” This policy was adopted as the result of a federal lawsuit, Bressler v. Maryland Public Schools Secondary Athletics Association.

    For information on other states, please see the PDF file here, prepared in November by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

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