Virginia Governor Vetoes Homeschool Sports Participation Bills


Two bills landed on Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) desk this week that were intended to allow students who are home-schooled to join in public school sports activities — and both received the Governor’s veto.

The measure is fashioned much like other laws across the nation and is known as a “Tebow bill,” named for Tim Tebow, who was the winner of college football’s Heisman Trophy in 2007. Tebow was home-schooled in Florida and was permitted to play football at the high school in his neighborhood.

The Washington Post’s Laura Vozzella writes that Virginia lawmakers have been behind several iterations of the Tebow legislation since 2005. When a similar bill was sent to the governor last year, McAuliffe vetoed it.

This year, Robert B. Bell (R-Albemarle) and Sen. Thomas A. Garrett (R-Buckingham) backed an identical bill, which supporters say should apply to home-schooled kids because their parents pay taxes, too. Just because they opt out of the public academic programs in their communities, they still have a right to be a part of athletic programs, explain the lawmakers.

“Everyone thinks this will happen one year, but every year that goes by there’s another group of teenagers that don’t get to play sports with their friends,” Bell said.

Garrett said those opposing the bill may be doing so because they are anti-Christian since many families who decide to home-school are doing so because of their religious beliefs.

Those opposed to the bill say it would not be fair to allow children to participate who have not met the same academic and disciplinary guidelines that traditional public school students are required to fulfill.

Graham Moomaw, reporting for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, quoted the governor:

“Virginia’s public schools provide a complete package of scholastic offerings and access to extracurricular activities,” McAuliffe said. “Participation in athletic and academic competitions is a privilege for students who satisfy eligibility requirements.”

The Associated Press reports that McAuliffe explained in a press release the reasons why he vetoed HB 131 and SB 612. He said:

“More than 300 public schools belong to the Virginia High School League (VHSL), an organization through which member schools have regulated interscholastic competition since 1913. Each year over 200,000 public school students, who satisfy the VHSL’s 13 individual eligibility requirements, participate in one or more of the league’s 27 sports and 11 academic activities.”

The Home School Legal Defense Association, a nonprofit group created to “defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and protect family freedoms,” believe that homeschoolers should be included in public school sports.

The HSLDA reports that 22 states require that public schools allow children being educated at home to some form of access to classes, sports, and activities. The kids’ are commonly expected to meet certain requirements which are mostly the school’s policies or state high school athletic association’s bylaws.

These procedures are different from state to state, but usually include compliance with the state homeschool law, meeting the same eligibility requirements as public school students, and verification of passing his or her core subjects.

In states with no specific statutes or regulations ordering equal access, the individual schools and districts may decide whether homeschoolers can participate in public school activities.

State legislatures, writes the HSLDA, are beginning to side with homeschooling families. The reason could very well be financial because public schools that have homeschooled kids in classrooms and activities may be able to recapture at least some of the funding they have lost to private schools and homeschoolers based on their part-time participation in school events.