Student Well-Being

‘Tebow Bills’ for Homeschooled Athletes Advance in Three States

By Bryan Toporek — April 03, 2013 2 min read
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I blogged about legislative efforts in Tennessee and North Carolina last month that would allow homeschooled students to participate in public school sports if approved.

Today, I’ve got updates on both bills, along with a similar bill in Texas that’s working its way through the legislature.

These so-called “Tebow bills” earn their nickname from New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, who was homeschooled as a high schooler in Florida but still played football for a public school team.

In Texas, the Senate education committee approved a bill 7-1 yesterday, and it now advances to the full Senate. The bill, introduced in the Senate on Feb.28, would allow homeschooled students to participate in University Interscholastic League sports and activities, assuming they meet the same qualifications as their traditional public school peers.

To be eligible for public school sports, the primary provider of instruction for each prospective homeschooled student-athlete would need to submit a written verification to the school that the student has a passing grade in each course taught and is “maintaining satisfactory progress towards academic advancements or promotion,” according to the bill. It also prohibits homeschooled students from participating in UIL sports or activities if the student was previously enrolled in a public school during that school year.

In Tennessee, the state Senate on Monday backed a House bill that passed that chamber by a vote of 69-24 back on March 25.

The Tennesse bill would allow homeschooled students to play on public school sports teams if the student is being homeschooled by a parent or guardian, expresses his or her interest in participation for the upcoming school year by Aug. 1, and is found to meet the same academic and conduct standards as regular public school student-athletes.

The legislation wouldn’t guarantee a homeschooled athlete a spot on a public school sports team, but would guarantee any eligible homeschooled athlete the chance to at least try out. Under the bill, if an association that regulates interscholastic sports (such as the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association) establishes minimum eligibility requirements for homeschooled student-athletes, schools would also be required to follow such rules.

In North Carolina, two separate bills are working through the legislative process: One would apply only to homeschooled student-athletes and one would apply to student-athletes at charter schools and private schools as well as those who are homeschooled.

The only-homeschooled-athletes bill was introduced in the state House on March 5 and was referred to the House committee on education. There’s been no legislative action taken on it since then.

The bill applying to prospective student-athletes in private and charter schools was introduced in the state Senate on April 1 and was referred to the committee on rules and operations.

As a reminder, earlier this year, a Virginia Senate committee voted down the state’s Tebow bill 8-7 for the second straight year.

A majority of states have some form of law governing what public school activities homeschooled students are allowed to take part in, according to a November 2012 brief from the Home School Legal Defense Association.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.