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Some Parents Cry "Foul"—Should Homeschoolers Be Allowed to Participate in Public School Sports?

Since homeschooling families pay taxes, why do some states prohibit homeschoolers from participating in public school sports? Currently, states are split on this issue. Just recently, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Indiana have changed their rules to allow homeschooler participation, while Virginia has declined to allow it. In reference to homeschooled athlete Tim Tebow, state legislation encouraging participation is often called a “Tebow Bill.” Tebow attended the University of Florida on a football scholarship and went on to win the Heisman Trophy while playing football for the Gators.

Within the realm of homeschooling, homeschool families are even split on this issue as well. On the one hand, some families would argue that that barring homeschoolers from play means that they would be denied scholarships that are available to other high school athletes. On the other hand, some families have not even considered allowing their children to enter the public school system for any reason because doing so would detract from the lessons that are being taught at home.

Whatever position you hold, as the parent, you should have the right to decide which course is best for your child.

At the Center for Homeschool Liberty, we receive calls from parents in non-inclusive states who wish to legally challenge this discrimination against their child. As this has been litigated over the past decade, homeschool parents have lost. State courts have held that the state retains the right to include or exclude homeschoolers from the public education sports programs. In other words, there is no “right” to play sports at the public school, so the state can outright forbid it, remain neutral, or highly regulate it. In states that include homeschoolers, some have mandated substantial requirements, such as minimum class registration or academically related participation eligibility requirements.

What can you do if you have a gifted athlete but reside in a non-inclusive state?

  1. Organize a movement of parents to petition your state legislature to sponsor a Tebow Bill.
  2. Find private or local leagues that invite the participation of all students.
  3. If your state laws are silent on the issue, it means that participation is at the discretion of your local school or school district. Make an appointment with the local athletic director and work with your child to present a compelling case to allow participation.

Homeschooling, and the regulation thereof, remains a state issue.

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