Virginia Lawmakers Pass Bill That May Allow Homeschoolers to Play School Sports

Sports pdRICHMOND, Va. — Lawmakers in Virginia have passed a bill named after football great Tim Tebow that may allow some homeschoolers to play sports with public school teams.

HB 1626, also known as the Tim Tebow Act, was introduced by Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle County) would provide school districts the freedom to decide whether or not they not they will allow homeschoolers to play with public school sports teams.

“We’re not requiring anything,” he told the Virginian-Pilot. “We’re giving local school divisions an option.”

The bill prohibits schools from being a part of an organization that prohibits homeschoolers from participating in varsity athletics, which some state will force the Virginia High School League to change its rules. It also mandates that interested youth pass standardized tests two years prior to their enrollment, follow immunization requirements and comport themselves with the codes of conduct.

“For a homeschool student who is really serious about sports, this is a big deal,” Bell said. “In some sports, such as football, there are very few options. In Fluvanna County, they don’t have another place to play football.”

Parent Jennifer Miller agreed. She told the Daily Progress that she believes the bill will have a positive impact on youth.

“Once you get to high school, the parks and recreation programs dissipate, and really the main [sports] opportunities are in the public school system,” Miller explained.

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“I just look at it as giving all kids in Virginia a chance to play and a chance to experience being part of a sports team, and that may or may not lead to college athletics,” she continued. “But more importantly, I think it’s just a great opportunity—as homeschooling becomes more mainstream—to see those kids as part of the community.”

But Virginia Beach Superintendent Aaron Spence told reporters that he opposes the legislation as he feels there are too many holes in the bill’s text.

“Overwhelmingly, the 316 members of the VHSL have expressed no support for this bill,” he stated. “There are legitimate issues this bill does not address. You’re trying to ensure that every student is held to the same standard. That’s very difficult to do with this bill.”

The House of Delegates passed HB 1626 on Thursday by a 60-40 vote, sending it now to the desk of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has not indicated either way whether he will sign or veto the legislation.

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.

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  • jmichael39

    Wonderful to hear. Wish they’d had this in California when my boys were in high school.

  • BarkingDawg

    I see a few potential issues with this.

    1) The home schooler child will have to be current with all their required vaccinations, and have the same medical clearances from a doctor that the regular children have to get prior to playing.

    2) Grades. High school athletes who do not maintain certain grade point averages do not get to participate in high school athletics. I do not see a similar mechanism in place to ensure that the homeschooler meets the minimum academic standards.

    3) fees. Public school athletes often have to pay extra fees, I hopw that the bill will allow for the schools to recover those fees (and other fees such as increased insurance costs) as well.

    An easy solution to the issue would be to simply have the child play an “outside” club sport that is not tied to a specific school. LaCross, Rugby, Hockey, are all sports that generally exist outside of the state school system, but are often tied to the local schools geographically.

    • Mark Barker

      1) Most home schooler children are vaccinated properly, and see doctors regularly.

      2) Home schooled children, on average, are much more well educated than most public school students at their same grade level.

      3) We pay our way just like anyone else.

      An easy solution to your issue is for you to read the entire article. There are no opportunities in many sports outside of the school system for high school level. Under your premise, my children should only be allowed to play sports in which there are no programs in my area anyway. While others enjoy the choice of whatever sport they like, in return for accepting a sub-par education.

      • BarkingDawg

        1) Most home schooler children are vaccinated properly, and see doctors regularly.

        Most is not all. All who want to participate in high school sports must be current with their vaccinations and have an EKG and a doctor’s approval before participation, just like the regular students do.

        • Mark Barker

          Again, fine by me. Are these the best arguments you can come up with?

      • BarkingDawg

        2) Home schooled children, on average, are much more well educated than most public school students at their same grade level.

        You are side stepping the issue. High school students are required to maintain certain academic standards in order to play. High school coaches review the academic progress of their athletes on a regular, if not weekly, basis. The coaches will not have any method available to measure the performance of home school students. It would not be fair to those regular students whose academic performance is regularly monitored to lose a spot on a team to a home school student whose academic performance is not monitored.
        The home school student should meet all the same standards as the regular students in order to play, however, there is no way to do that fairly. The only fair method would be if the home school student were to be subjected to the same tests and grading systems as the regular students.

        • Mark Barker

          Fine by me, as I have said, this would not deter many. Home schooled students, on average, are more advanced than their public school counterparts.

          • BarkingDawg

            How do you think that the school districts should determine the academic eligibility of home school athletes?

          • Mark Barker

            Pay retirees from the Athletic Department to personally monitor their testing on a monthly basis, and weekly testing via email, depending of course on the number of students they would monitor. If there were 20, the retiree could easily visit each one every week. But if there are hundreds, then my first suggestion would be more appropriate.

            Generally, after 6 months or less, retirees get bored, and want something to do. Giving them a job that is less demanding and more casual would give them great sense of personal accomplishment, continuing to be a viable and necessary part of the education system, and much social interaction.

            Looks like a win/win to me.

          • KenS

            you are apparently not informed on how home schooling works in most states. The home schooled children still have to take the standardized tests that the public school have to take and most score higher than the public school kids do. Also, the Parents have weekly tests scores and homework scores that are able to be reviewed by the coaches as well. As far as the vaccinations , home schooled children are still required to have their vaccinations up to date as well, this all has to be kept on file at the Regional Superintendent of the School District’s office for all home schooled children.

          • BarkingDawg

            Those tests are usually given in the spring.

            What good is that in regards to football season.

      • BarkingDawg

        While others enjoy the choice of whatever sport they like, in return for accepting a sub-par education.

        If the public school system in your area is sub par, then you have only yourself to blame. You vote for the state legislators whose job it is to secure the proper resources for their constituents. You vote (or don’t) for the school board who manages the system. You vote against the taxes required to generate the revenue necessary to operate the system. If you are unwilling to put in the effort or pay the price to ensure that your local educational system has the resources to provide a quality education for ALL of the residents in your community, That’s your problem.

        • Mark Barker

          My local education system, as most in the country, is run by liberals or people who are afraid to upset them. I am responsible for the education of my children, as all parents should be. But as you well know, the government school system does not want parents to a part of the children’s education at all. Often referring to them as “our children”, as if they belong to the government.

          I’m sorry if you are too blind to see that, or that home and private school children are the leaders of the future, while the vast majority of public school grads will be their employees.

          I love how you have much to blather about, yet hide behind a name you made up. If I thought like you, I wouldn’t be proud of who I was either.

          • BarkingDawg

            Waaah, waaah, waaah, the liberals are doing it! Waaah, waaah, waaah.
            Give me a break.

      • Frank

        To each his own. The home schooled children who I teach in Sunday school are far behind my public school educated children.

  • bowie1

    A local Canadian Christian School sometimes participates in sports with local public schools which is always a good thing.