The Texas Senate and Alabama House of Representatives each passed bills recently that would allow home-schooled students to participate in public school sports under certain circumstances.
The Alabama bill, which passed the House 52-43 on May 7, permits home-schooled students to join sports teams or other extracurricular activities at a public school in the district in which those students reside beginning in 7th grade. The home-schooled students can only participate at a single school per academic year—in other words, they can’t play soccer one for one school and football for another—and would be held to the same code of conduct and academic standards as their public school peers.
To prove academic eligibility, home-schooled students would have to submit either the results of a nationally recognized standardized test, such as the ACT or SAT, demonstrating that the student is on grade level, or “a portfolio of the previous year’s schoolwork demonstrating the student’s proficiency appropriate for his or her grade level at the discretion of the school principal or guidance counselor.” If a public school student isn’t able to maintain academic eligibility and begins being home-schooled, he or she cannot participate in extracurricular activities until having successfully “satisfied standards to regain eligibility that are equivalent to those imposed on other students at the same grade level.”
Home-schooled students aren’t guaranteed spots on public school sports teams under the bill, however. Assuming it passes, they’d simply not be prohibited from trying out for a given team so long as they meet the requisite academic and residency requirements.
The Texas bill, which passed the state Senate by a 27-4 vote on May 11, is similar in nature. It requires public schools that host University Interscholastic League-sanctioned activities to provide home-schooled students with the same opportunity to participate as a typical public school student, so long as the home-schooled students meet all eligibility requirements.
Academically, for a home-schooled student to participate in an activity within the first six weeks of a school year, he or she must “demonstrate grade-level academic proficiency on any nationally recognized, norm-referenced assessment instrument.” Demonstrating proficiency would allow the student to participate in that activity and any other extracurricular activity during the school year. After the first six weeks, a parent or legal guardian must periodically submit “written verification to the school indicating that the student is receiving a passing grade in each course or subject being taught.”
The bill prohibits home-schooled students from participating in public school sports during a given school year if they were at any time enrolled in a public school. If passed, it would take effect beginning in the 2015-16 school year.
According to A2Z Homeschooling, Alabama had more than an estimated 23,000 home-schooled students during the 2013-14 school year, while Texas had north of 144,000. Twenty-eight states have bills governing home-schooled students’ participation in public school sports, according to AL.com.
The Alabama bill is now under consideration by the state Senate, while the Texas bill is being considered by the state House of Representatives. Even if either bill successfully advances through the legislature, however, there’s always the threat of a gubernatorial veto. Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a similar bill earlier this year, saying “it would create a double standard, as students who are not subject to academic or attendance requirements of public schools would now compete with students on public school athletic teams.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.