For Immediate Release: Access to public school athletics programs provides homeschooled students with substantial benefits
Canton, Ma. 02/22/2017—For the third year, West Virginia lawmakers have introduced legislation to grant homeschooled students the ability to participate in public school athletics programs. The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission currently requires student athletes to be enrolled in the public school they represent, preventing homeschooled students from participating. House Bill 2196 and Senate Bill 6 would change this. “We urge West Virginia lawmakers to support House Bill 2196 and Senate Bill 6,” said 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.”
HB 2196 requires homeschooled students to participate in public school athletics programs in the district they would be zoned to attend, and SB 6 outlines detailed academic eligibility requirements for these students. These provisions are designed to meet concerns voiced by critics. “Legislation like HB 2196 and SB 6 often faces opposition from individuals who worry that allowing homeschooled students to participate would take opportunities away from other students,” said Coleman. However, the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers conducted a 2012 survey of state athletics associations which found that granting homeschooled students access to public school athletics has not caused problems in those states that have already done so. “Research suggests that homeschooled students tend to gravitate toward activities without a limit on participants, such as cross country running or tennis, so these critics’ fears seem to be unfounded,” said Coleman.
Meanwhile, studies show that participation in public school athletics programs greatly benefits homeschooled students. In October 2016, CRHE conducted a survey of 150 homeschool graduates’ athletics experiences. The participants overwhelmingly believed that athletic participation was beneficial to homeschooled students (87%) and supported making public school athletics available to homeschooled students (80%). Many participants pointed out that community athletics programs are 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 participated in public school athletics viewed their experiences positively; and many respondents, especially those whose educational and social experiences with homeschooling were more negative, believed participation in public school athletics would have improved their homeschool experience.
Last year, fifteen-year-old Bryson French, a homeschooled student in Winfield, West Virginia, who has played baseball since he was seven, told reporters that being prevented from participating in public school athletics programs limited him to participating in summer travel teams only. “Right now, where I play for my travel team, we play 30 to 40 games every season,” Byson explained. “All of my teammates are playing an additional 20 to 30 maybe 40 games with their school teams, so I’m missing out on half the season they get to do.” Access to public school athletics programs would ensure that children like Bryson have the resources and access they need to fully participate in their chosen sports.
Currently, 30 states grant homeschooled students access to public school athletics programs, putting West Virginia in the minority. “The evidence is clear that granting homeschooled children access to public school athletics improves homeschool outcomes,” said Coleman. “There is no good reason for denying these children access. We urge West Virginia lawmakers to support the state’s homeschooled students and pass HB 2196 and SB 6.”
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.