“Tebow Bills” and Access to Public School Sports
- Wednesday, October 16, 2013
B. Reasonable fees may be charged to such students to cover the costs of participation in such interscholastic programs.
As you can see, this bill has anticipated many of the objections of “Tebow bill” opponents. It essentially prevents public schools from joining any state or local athletic association that excludes homeschoolers. And, to its credit, the bill does not add new government intrusions into the lives of homeschoolers. The bill breaks down as follows.
Subsections (i) and (ii) require that the homeschooled athlete have a two-year track record of complying with Virginia’s homeschooling statute. Unfortunately, this puts new homeschoolers at a disadvantage for two years. Subsections (iii), (iv), and (v) make certain that the homeschooler is eligible for public school and is neither too old nor a professional athlete. Subsections (vi) and (vii) ensure the homeschooled athlete will comply with the same rules as public school students, especially in the area of discipline. The final sentence of Section A limits access to the homeschooler’s local school district—a measure designed to avoid unfair competition by coaches who might try to recruit outstanding homeschooled athletes from outside the school district. Finally, Section B permits schools to charge homeschoolers “reasonable fees” to cover costs related to participation.
To Sue or Not to Sue
Families living in a state without equal access may be tempted to sue to secure the right of their child to participate in public school sports. Don’t do it. Over the past fifteen years several families have tried this tactic with little success. The reason for the failure is simple: though it is unfair, school districts can point to what the courts consider “rational” reasons for excluding homeschoolers. Redirect your time, money, and efforts to more productive avenues.
For instance, even where a state may not have a “Tebow bill” on the books, local school boards may be able to authorize your child’s participation in that district. Make connections with your school board and bring a well-written petition. Additionally, in recent years there have been efforts in several states to pass statewide rules that would expand sports access for homeschoolers.1 Organize or renew efforts to petition your state legislators to bring a “Tebow bill” to your state. Finally, find opportunities for your homeschooled athletes to participate in sports right now. There may already be homeschool or local recreational sports leagues that can give your children the chance they need to excel and prove their eligibility for a collegiate athletic scholarship.
1. The following fifteen states have considered such bills in the recent past: AL, AR, GA, HI, KY, LA, MD, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OK, SC, TN, TX. You can also find a good summary of the status of state equal access laws (updated May 2011) on the HSLDA website.
Antony B. Kolenc (J.D., University of Florida College of Law) is an attorney, author, and speaker. He and his wife have homeschooled their five children for over a decade. He is author of The Chronicles of Xan historical fiction trilogy, as well as several legal articles. Learn more about him at www.antonykolenc.com.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Publication date: October 16, 2013
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