JACKSON, Miss. — In recognition of football great Tim Tebow, a homeschooler who worked his way up to the NFL after playing with public school teams, Mississippi lawmakers are considering the passage of the “Tim Tebow Act” in order to give that same opportunity to other homeschoolers throughout the state.
The bill was introduced this year by Sen. Joey Fillingane in an effort to give students who study at home equal access to compete in sports as children who are taught by the public school system.
“A student enrolled in a homeschool is eligible to participate in interscholastic extracurricular activities sponsored by or engaged in by the public school to which the student would be assigned according to district school board attendance policies or which the student could choose to attend pursuant to district open enrollment provisions,” SB 2329 reads.
According to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, over 25 states allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports, including Arizona, Florida, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Arkansas. But another 21 states ban homeschoolers from being a part of interscholastic activities, including Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia and New York.
The “Tim Tebow Act” has been presented in several of these states, but has stalled before it could make it to a full vote.
Mississippi parent Brent Butler told reporters this week that he believes the bill is important because athletic opportunities for homeschoolers are lacking in their teenage years.
“What happens in this community [is], we have our sports stop right around 14. You’ll see football stop, as far as a rec league football,” he said. “That limits our opportunities for interaction and development.”
Butler said that he believes sports are just as important as the other subjects that students are required to study.
“To us, that’s an equal part of education,” he stated. “It’s just as important as the biology, just as important as the Latin, any of the other languages, arts [and] those things that you learn outside the classroom.”
According to reports, Tim Tebow was the first homeschooler in American history to be nominated for the Heisman Trophy.
“A lot of times people have this stereotype of homeschoolers as not very athletic. It’s like, go win a spelling bee or something like that,” he said in 2007 after receiving the nomination. “It’s an honor for me to be the first one to do that.”
In 1996, a law was passed in Tebow’s home state of Florida that allowed him to play football with school teams. He then began playing football with a Christian school and later a public school, working his way up to the championships. Tebow went on to play with the University of Florida, and was later drafted into the NFL.
While he has no personal involvement in the bills that carry his namesake, the legislation proposed in Mississippi and other states is meant to help provide youth with the same access that Tebow had while being homeschooled in Florida.