RICHMOND, Va. — Pointing out that homeschooled students are entitled to take part in public school programs paid for by their parents’ tax dollars and not be discriminated against because they are homeschooled, John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, is urging the Virginia General Assembly to adopt House Bill 947. Dubbed the “Tim Tebow law” after the homeschooled football player who went on to become a pro football, Heisman-trophy winning quarterback and star, H.B. 947 would allow homeschooled students to try out for and participate in sports at their local public schools.
“The chance to compete with one’s peers, to fully develop one’s potential, and to perhaps earn a scholarship to attend an institution of higher learning that might otherwise not be within a family’s reach should be available to all Virginia students, including homeschooled students,” said Whitehead. “H.B. 947 is a long-overdue and much-needed acknowledgment by the Commonwealth of Virginia that homeschooled students are an equal and valued part of our communities and should be allowed to share their talents with their respective communities.”
Sponsored by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58th House), House Bill 947 would permit qualified homeschooled students to try out for and participate in their local public schools’ sports teams. By preventing Virginia public schools from enforcing provisions of the rules of the Virginia High School League (VHSL) that bar homeschooled children from participating in the interscholastic sports activities of their local public school, H.B. 947 serves to recognize and correct the inherent inequity of barring homeschooled students from public school sports teams. Moreover, the bill would also place pressure on VHSL to either lose the vast majority of its member schools or eliminate its requirement that only students enrolled in a school can compete with the members of that school’s teams.
Opponents of H.B. 947 have voiced a number of concerns about allowing home school students the opportunity to compete for positions on public school teams, particularly as they relate to fairness, academic eligibility standards and possible recruiting abuses by coaches. However, as Whitehead points out in his letter to the General Assembly, these concerns are either addressed by the proposed legislation or existing law. For example, under H.B. 947, homeschoolers would be required to demonstrate academic excellence for two years prior to trying out. Homeschoolers would also be restricted to their public school attendance zone. As to questions of fairness, Whitehead notes that since “parents of homeschooled children pay the same taxes other families pay to support the activities and programs of public schools, they should have access to the programs, including athletic programs, their hard-earned dollars support.” At least 14 other states have passed legislation similar to H.B. 947, while 28 states total nationwide allow homeschooled students to participate in public school sports.