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Intersection of Life and Faith

Bill Would Open Public School Sports to Homeschoolers—The Big 12

  • Scott Woodruff HSLDA
  • 2013 2 Oct
Bill Would Open Public School Sports to Homeschoolers—The Big 12

For over a year, Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt of Fond du Lac has been working on a “Tebow Bill” for Wisconsin—a bill that would give homeschoolers (and others) the option of trying out to play on public school sports teams. The draft of his bill is now available for public review.

When I spoke with his office last week, his staffer told me he is already considering some amendments to address concerns that have been communicated to him. As of today, it is only a proposal—it has not been filed and does not have a bill number.

HSLDA will maintain a position of neutrality on the bill, as we generally do in all states on such issues. We recognize that there is a diversity of opinion about whether it is good for homeschool students to be able to play on public school sports teams.

But since the issue is relatively new to the Wisconsin Legislature, I would like to draw from HSLDA’s experience in all 50 states over the past 30 years and offer the “Big 12”: Four myths exposed, four possible pros, and four possible cons.

Myth vs. Reality

Myth No. 1: “Homeschoolers will lose their freedom if they get access to sports.” Over the years, the number of states giving homeschoolers access to public school sports (either as a matter of right, or with the school’s approval) has swelled to 30. There is not a single state in which homeschool laws were made more burdensome after homeschoolers won sports access. In a number of states, the homeschool laws actually improved after homeschoolers obtained access to sports, including Idaho, Iowa, Maine, and South Dakota.

Myth No. 2: “The extra burdens placed on families who want to actually take advantage of public school sports will eventually fall on all homeschool families.” Historically, this has never happened. Not a single state has added to the burdens of all homeschool families after giving access to sports.

Myth No. 3: “If our kids can’t play sports on public school teams, they will never be able to play sports at all.” In some states where homeschoolers do not have access to public school sports, homeschool parents or organizations have risen to the call to provide sports opportunities. There is even a national group, Home School Sports Net.

Myth No. 4: “It will cause lots of problems if we let homeschoolers play public school sports.” I have sat through many legislative hearings where this concern has been voiced, but not once have I heard of an actual problem that any state experienced after giving homeschoolers access to sports. In practice, things run quite smoothly when homeschoolers play public school sports.

The Pros: Arguments for Access to Sports

Possible Pro 1: For a few homeschool students, like Tim Tebow from Florida, being able to play on a public school sports team creates an open door to college and professional sports while being able to keep the benefits of homeschooling.

Possible Pro 2: Some families quit homeschooling every year because their kids want to play public school sports. Some of those families might continue homeschooling if they could have both. And some families might switch from public to homeschool if they knew their kids could still play sports.

Possible Pro 3: For some homeschool students, the reward of being able to play sports might motivate them to treat their homeschool studies very seriously.

Possible Pro 4: It gives public school coaches and students a chance to rub shoulders with awesome homeshooled kids. It spreads the message that homeschooling is a great option.

The Cons: Arguments against Access to Sports

Possible Con 1: If a homeschool student develops many friends on a public school team, he might pressure his parents to go all the way and just enroll him in the public school. Putting a child in the radically atheistic public school system for sports could send the child a message that public schools are OK despite their hostility toward faith.

Possible Con 2: The team and coach will influence the faith, morality, habits, and attitudes of the homeschool student. This influence will probably be in a direction different from the way his parents have been rearing him.

Possible Con 3: Some sports programs designed just for homeschoolers in Wisconsin might collapse if students can opt for public school sports.

Possible Con 4: The simple happiness of enjoying meals and fellowship together as a family can be destroyed by the heavy time demands for practices, meetings, games, and tournaments. At least one parent will spend a lot of time on the road and away from their family hauling the student to all those mandatory events.

HSLDA opposes sports access bills that are a clear and present danger to the freedom of homeschool families. We are currently opposing a sports access bill in New Jersey for this reason. We will track Rep. Thiesfeldt’s proposal to make sure it is not amended to become dangerous. However, at this point it does not present a cognizable threat to homeschool freedom in Wisconsin, so we will neither support nor oppose it.

Protect Your Family

If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support enables us to defend individual families threatened by government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now.

Courtesy HSLDA. Used with permission.

Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in Wisconsin. He and his wife homeschooled their children.

Publication date: October 2, 2013