A group of around 75 home-schooled students and parents protested in front of the New Mexico Activities Association building late last week after being told by the NMAA that they would enforcing a state law that would not allow any home-schooled children to participate in the upcoming National Science Olympiad.
NMAA associate director Dusty Young added that home-schooled teams would not be allowed to participate in any NMAA sanctioned event from here on out, whether it be academic or athletic.
Young told Gabrielle Burkhart for KRQE News that the requirement was not new, but that the organization is “really just informing and educating the activities directors and those individual groups across the state that this is part of the NMAA bylaws, and part of state law,” even though the home-schooled team had been participating in the event for the past 11 years.
He said that it had been made clear to the organization that the rule had not been followed, which is why they were choosing now to enforce it. Young added that they were merely following state law and that both sides were working together to try to come to a compromise.
Individual home-schooled children will still be able to join public school teams as long as they live within the boundary of that school, the school is accredited by the state Public Education Department, and the school is a NMAA member, writes Rick Nathanson for The Albuquerque Journal.
However, there may only be 15 children on each team, and because not every school has a team, it could be difficult for individual home-schooled children to find a team to join.
“We’re the only team that’s been sent to the national competition each year from New Mexico from the mid school, our mid-schoolers the last five years,” explained Linda Walkup, the teams’ head coach.
The group received a letter this year from the NMAA stating that eligibility for the competition had been changed and that home-schooled children could only compete if they were part of a public school team in their district.
Walkup gave letters of protest to the NMAA board at their weekly meeting and received verbal acknowledgement that the homeschoolers that had already paid their registration fees and had spent the past few months preparing their projects could participate.
However, so late in the year, the public schools that do have teams are already full, meaning home-schooled children cannot join and therefore cannot compete, writes Royale Da for KOAT.
The group has found legal representation and plan to appeal the decision, arguing that the NMAA is misinterpreting the law.
The National Science Olympiad is an academic competition covering science, math and engineering.