Should home-schooled students be allowed to participate in public school sports?
According to information published by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming require home schoolers some type of access to classes or sports. The State of Tennessee, however, has no such agreement for equal access and leaves it up to individual school boards to decide.
Thursday afternoon, at the October monthly meeting of the Weakley County School Board, home school student William McDonald addressed board members and asked that they consider allowing home school students in the county equal access to public school extracurricular activities, namely sports.
The McDonald family has lived in Weakley County for about four years and has been a home schooling family for about 14 years.
“Like most teenage boys, sports are an important part of our sons’ lives, so my son, William, would like to speak to you about his hope that you would approve a policy for home schoolers to participate in public school sports in this county,” Kathryn McDonald, William’s mother, said.
“Some people argue that home schoolers have no right to play sports, that home schoolers deserve the consequences of their school choice. This is an all-or-nothing argument saying that public education has its advantages as does home schooling and it is not fair to have the best of both worlds,” William McDonald remarked.
“Another argument is that to be on a school team, a player needs to be part of the school community and have his coaches keep tabs on him. But, home schoolers argue that, for many reasons, equal access to public school sports is important. It benefits not only the home school players, but the schools and the entire community as well. Sports provide a great aid to education and allowing equal access can pay big dividends as a couple of cases have shown.”
McDonald gave the examples of two home schoolers who went on to have success in college and professional football: Jason Taylor and Tim Tebow. Taylor was noticed by the local high school coach raking leaves and asked him why he didn’t try out for football to which he replied he didn’t know he could because of being a home school student.
Taylor went on to play high school football due to the coach’s changing of the policy and eventually played college ball at Akron University.
He was drafted in the third-round of the 1997 NFL draft and went on to rack up honors as 2006 defensive player of the year, six pro bowls, four all-pro honors, NFL alumni association defensive player of the year twice in a row and number one in sacks in Miami Dolphins history.
Another case, Tim Tebow, won the 2005 Florida state championship with Neese High School, two national championships with the University of Florida, the Sugar Bowl and the Heisman Trophy. Several states have now proposed bills for equal access named after Tebow.
“Equal access to public school sports offers a larger talent pool for the sports teams. Imagine home schoolers out there who could be the next Tim Tebow or Jason Taylor, but might not ever be because they’re not allowed to play public school sports,” McDonald continued. “A major argument of home schoolers for equal access is that to deny it is discrimination. Since home schoolers pay the same taxes as public schoolers and a percentage of those taxes go to public schools, home schoolers are contributing to public schools, but if they are denied access to public school-sponsored activities, the charge of discrimination seems to fit. But, the most important argument for equal access is that it unites rather than divides the community. Instead of public school versus home school, all of the community students are viewed together. Sports and other extracurricular activities provide opportunities for the members of the community to interact, socialize and build friendships.
“Home schoolers are no different from their public school peers except for where they learn. Equal access benefits the kids, their parents and the community. Equal access to public school sports is advantageous to everyone involved. Public schools belong to the community and home schoolers are as much a part of that community as public schoolers. Community is important and is best not divided.
“As a home schooler myself, equal access is very important to me. I would like the opportunity to try out for sports teams in our county, but this isn’t just about me and my family. It’s about all the home-schooled students in our county. These public schools are our schools too. Please give us a chance.”
School board members heard the request, but took no action.
In other business, the board granted a request from Pattie Nutting that her daughter, Gabby, be allowed to miss two additional days of school besides the five allowed days to visit her brother Lance Corp. James Wilson in Hawaii.
“We considered a request like this a year ago and she got to see her brother and he was later wounded in battle for us, so we could hardly deny that request,” chairman Gordon Morris remarked.
In other business, the board passed several policy items on their first reading with “most of the changes coming in wording as updates,” according to director of schools Randy Frazier. School Board policy items passed on their first reading included:
• Policy 2.802 – payroll procedures – with the revision that all personnel will be paid with 12 monthly installments.
• Policy 2.803 – salary deductions – with the revision of 25 percent employee participation.
• Policy 4.2014 – physical education – with the revision that students in grades 9-12 must receive half a credit in physical education to meet graduation requirements. State approved activities may be substituted to meet this requirement such as band or athletics.
• Policy 4.204 – summer school and non-traditional instruction – with the revision that course credits may be earned in summer school. All course credits received through non-traditional avenues must have prior approval of the director of schools. Attendance laws apply to students participating in any remedial instruction that is required by the student’s school, including summer school programs and after-school instruction. The decision to require attendance shall be made by the principal who shall consider the transportation available to the student. Additionally, Tennessee Rules, Regulations and Minimum Standards shall be followed in conducting summer schools, credit-recovery programs or other supplemental resources.
• Policy 4.310 – interscholastic athletics – with the revision that a student repeating a grade is ineligible for the entire season.
• Policy 4.601 – reporting student progress – with the revision that Dresden High School is no longer on a block-schedule format and will be getting the reports at the same time as the rest of the schools.
These policies passed on their first readings and will be addressed again at next month’s board meeting.
Several volunteer coaches were approved including David Williams for Greenfield softball and Richard Stephenson and Julia Brundige for Westview girls’ basketball.
Several consent items were approved including:
• Martin Primary kindergarten to visit Holt Family Farm Oct. 11-10 (three classes each day).
• Westview FFA to travel to Indianapolis to attend the National FFA Conference Oct. 19-22.
• Gleason FFA to travel to Indianapolis to attend the National FFA Conference Oct. 19-22.
• Martin Middle School cheerleaders to attend competitions in DeSoto, Miss. on Nov. 5, Murfreesboro on Nov. 12 and Orlando Feb. 9-14, 2012.
• Dresden High FCCLA to attend fall leadership in Doyle, Oct. 28-30.
• Westview Band to compete in Paragould, Ark., Oct. 8, Pinckneyville, Ill., Oct. 29-30 and Jonesboro, Ark., Oct. 1.
• Greenfield Junior High Beta to attend convention in Nashville Nov. 20-22.
• Martin Primary second grade to visit the Ned McWherter Cultural Center in Jackson Oct. 21.
• Martin Primary second grade (Castleman’s class) to visit Reelfoot Lake on Oct. 13.
To close out the meeting, Frazier announced that the first phase of benchmark testing had been completed and results should come in about two weeks.
Teacher evaluations are almost completed and Frazier visited Martin Middle School and Dresden High School Monday to inform them of the evaluation process – a process that is still in the tweaking phases.
School improvement plans are in the process of being updated and the HVAC projects taking place at Martin Middle and Dresden High are nearing completion and will be mostly finished by Nov. 1.
In closing, he thanked local people in service from officers to EMTs to teachers to counselors who’d had a hand in providing comfort and support to students in facing the death of seventh-grade DMS student Jordan Stout, two high school students involved in a wreck in Dresden and some students involved in a wreck in Martin.
The next meeting of the WCSB will take place at 5 p.m. Nov. 3 at Westview.