JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi Senate has voted to reject the “Tim Tebow Act,” a bill that would allow homeschoolers throughout the state to participate in school sports programs.
As previously reported, 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.
Mississippi parent Brent Butler told reporters that 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.”
While Tebow didn’t have a role in the creation of the bill, it was given his namesake because of his homeschooling roots. 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. He was the first homeschooler in American history to be nominated for the Heisman Trophy.
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. Several states that have proposed legislation have likewise named their effort after Tebow.
On Thursday, the Mississippi Senate voted down the legislation, with 17 in favor and 31 against. According to the Vicksburg Post, concerns were raised over the lack of academic standards for students, as well as the inability to track which homeschoolers have complied with the state’s strict vaccination requirements.
“[T]here’s no way to monitor whether the homeschool children are meeting the grade requirements to participate in the activities,” State Sen. Briggs Hopson III, who voted against the measure, told reporters.
He also said that logistics surrounding liability insurance “were not clearly answered” in the bill.
But Fillingane had said after introducing the legislation that there was no reason homeschoolers shouldn’t be allowed to play with school teams if their parents pay taxes.
It is not known whether another bill will be presented at a later time containing adjustments to the existing language.