Virginia Bill Would Let Homeschooled Students Play Sports

For Immediate Release: Alumni Group Says HB 226 Is Good for Homeschooled Students

02/12/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, is urging Virginia lawmakers to support House Bill 226, which would grant homeschooled students access to public school athletics programs. Currently, Virginia High School League (VHSL) requires student athletes to be “regular bona fide students” at the school they represent, barring homeschooled students from participating. HB 2149 would change this. “Access to public school athletics programs benefits homeschooled students without creating problems for either public schools or other students,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE.

“By now, Virginia lawmakers are used to seeing Tebow legislation,” says Coleman, referencing the fact that homeschool athletics access bills have been introduced annually for nearly a decade without success. “We worry that conflict between teachers unions and state associations of homeschooling parents has made some forget where the focus ought to be: on the children.” 

Coleman says that homeschooled students who participate in athletics in their local public schools typically gravitate toward activities without a limit on participants, such as cross country running or tennis. So while critics frequently allege that allowing homeschooled students to participate in public school athletics programs takes opportunities away from other students, Coleman says the evidence for this is sparse. A 2012 survey of athletic associations in states that allow homeschooled students to participate in athletics at their local public schools found that this policy had not created problems for either students or schools. 

In 2016, CRHE conducted a survey of 150 homeschool graduates’ athletics experiences. Four in five respondents (80%) said public school athletics should be made available to homeschooled students. Some respondents noted that athletics programs outside of public schools were limited, especially at later grades: “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.” 

Currently, 30 states grant homeschooled students access to public school athletics programs, putting Virginia in the minority. “Granting homeschooled children access to public school athletics improves homeschool outcomes,” said Coleman. “We urge Virginia lawmakers to support the state’s homeschooled students by finally granting them access to athletic programs.” 

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals.

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