For Immediate Release: Public School Sports Access Benefits Texas Homeschooled Students
Canton, Ma., 3/19/15—The University Interscholastic League (UIL) requires student athletes to be full-time students in regular attendance at the school they represent, thus effectively barring homeschooled students from participation in athletics at their local public schools. House Bill 347 and Senate Bill 391 could change this, requiring the UIL to change its criteria to allow homeschooled students to compete for their local schools. “Granting homeschooled students access to public school extracurriculars is one of the most important ways lawmakers can support homeschooled students,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a group that advocates for homeschooled children.
Participation in public school athletics and other extracurriculars has been found to have pronounced benefits for children’s socialization, self-esteem, and leadership skills. A recent study of homeschool alumni found that those who participated in public school athletics rated their homeschooling experience more highly than did other respondents. Further, researcher Joseph Richard Barno found that college admissions officers weighted extracurriculars more heavily for homeschool graduates than for traditionally-schooled graduates, suggesting that extracurricular participation is especially important for homeschooled students who are college-bound. “Excluding homeschooled children from this important aspect of physical and personal development puts them at a profound disadvantage with respect to their peers,” Coleman said.
Texas’ House Bill 347 and Senate Bill 391 are part of an ongoing trend toward increasing homeschooled students’ access to extracurriculars in their local public schools. Over half of all states provide homeschooled students some form of participation in athletics or other extracurriculars through their local public schools, and that number is growing. Many states also allow homeschooled students to take individual courses at their local public schools. In fact, in 2007, the most recent year for which we have data, 16% of homeschooled students were enrolled in school part time. “Cooperation between homeschoolers and local school districts benefits homeschooled students and creates a positive relationship between schools and families,” said Coleman.
The Texas Homeschool Association supports legislation to open public school athletics to homeschooled students. While there are often a variety of community athletic leagues available to younger children, these options tend to narrow as children grow older, and also vary from region to region. “If you’re a middle class home schooler and you live in Alpine, Texas or the rural areas of West Texas you don’t have any choices,” Tim Lambert, President of the Texas Homeschool Association, told reporters. Homeschooled children should have the opportunity to participate in athletics regardless of how old they are or where they live.
“Discriminating against homeschooled children based on the educational choices their parents make for them is detrimental to these children’s development and prevents them from accessing the same opportunities as their peers,” said Coleman. “Children of all educational backgrounds should be able to play together.”
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.