For Immediate Release: Everyone wins when homeschooled students are allowed to play on public school sports teams
Canton, Ma., 02/13/2019—On February 4th, Rep. James Frank introduced House Bill 1324 into the Texas state legislature. This bill would outline standards for homeschooled students’ participation in public school athletics. High school athletics programs in public schools are governed by the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which currently requires participants to be full time students at the schools they represent, barring homeschoolers. HB 1324 would force the UIL to change its eligibility criteria. “We urge lawmakers to support HB 1324,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children. “It is well-documented that access to public school athletics programs benefits homeschooled students without creating problems for either public schools or other students.”
While critics allege that allowing homeschooled students to participate in public school athletics programs takes opportunities away from other students, the evidence for this is sparse. “In a 2012 survey, state athletic associations that allow homeschooled students to compete on public school teams reported that this policy had not created problems for them,” said Coleman. “Further, research suggests that homeschooled students tend to gravitate toward activities without a limit on participants, such as cross country running or tennis.”
HB 1324 also contains provisions designed to prevent abuse of the system, barring homeschooled students from participating during the remainder of any school year in which they were previously enrolled in school and requiring homeschooled participants to achieve an average or above average score on a standardized test.
In 2016, CRHE conducted a survey of 150 homeschool graduates’ athletics experiences and found that participants overwhelmingly believed that athletic participation was beneficial to homeschooled students (87%) and that public school athletics should be made available to homeschooled students (80%). Many participants noted that community athletics programs were often limited: “Once I reached junior high age there were no longer any community sports available,” wrote one participant; another noted that public school athletics programs “are very often the only access for students like myself who grew up in underprivileged areas.”
Survey respondents who were homeschooled in Texas overwhelmingly supported granting homeschooled students access to public school athletics programs. “Many homeschool students are athletically/physically underdeveloped because they do not have access to such programs,” Bea wrote of her experience. Without access to public school athletics, Dan wrote, “homeschoolers are left with few, often expensive options to participate in organized sports.” Faith noted that participation in public school athletics can expose homeschooled students “to others outside their own social group and to mandatory reporters.”
Currently, 30 states grant homeschooled students access to public school athletics programs, putting Texas in the minority. “Granting homeschooled children access to public school athletics improves homeschool outcomes,” said Coleman. “We urge Texas lawmakers to support the state’s homeschooled students by supporting HB 1324.”
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.