Two weeks ago, the Mississippi Senate education committee approved a bill that would have allowed homeschooled students to participate in public school sports and other extracurricular activities, sending it to the full Senate.
That movement died Thursday, however, when the Senate voted it down, 31-17.
If passed, the bill would have allowed homeschooled students to participate in sports and band at the public school to which they would otherwise be assigned based on district school board attendance policies. Such students would have been required to “adhere to the same standards of behavior, responsibility, performance, and code of conduct” as their public school counterparts, and also would have been required to “adhere to the same academic achievements on grade level as other participants.”
One amendment considered in the Senate sought to make any public school student eligible to participate in extracurricular activities if his or her parent or legal guardian “is satisfied with the academic performance of the student.” However, that was the only one of four amendments that the Senate did not pass before sending it to a full vote.
The bill would have barred students from school sports or other extracurricular activities for 12 months after they transfer from public school to homeschooling. However, that wasn’t enough to satisfy Sen. Hob Bryan, according to Emily Wagster Pettus of the Associated Press, who questioned why good athletes with poor grades wouldn’t simply drop out of public school in favor of being homeschooled.
“I can poke fun at the students who were trying to make grades. I can hold it over them that I don’t have to go to chemistry,” Bryan said, speaking as though he were a football player, Pettus reported. “There’s not a thing in the world the school district can do to stop me. Isn’t that correct?”
Mississippi High School Activities Association executive director Don Hinton also expressed concern about some of the academic issues to Warren Kulo of GulfLive.com.
“We’ve always had homeschool parents asking about their kids participating,” Hinton said. “It’s long been an issue. There’s a question of fairness involved as to whether the homeschool kids are meeting the academic standards.”
The House education committee shot down a similar bill on Feb. 3, ending any hope of homeschooled students’ participation in public school sports during the 2015-16 school year in Mississippi.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.