RICHMOND, 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.
“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.