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Proposed "Tebow Bill" Would Allow Home-Schooled Students to Play Sports at Public Schools

Legislation proposed for the 2015 session of the General Assembly designed to allow home school students to participate in sports in their local public schools may be more wide-ranging than intended, according to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.

State Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, said his proposal is based on a 1996 Florida law that later became known as the “Tebow Bill” after the former Florida Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow.

Tebow was home schooled and was able to play for his local high school after the law passed. Lee said in a news release that “roughly half” of the states have similar laws on the books.

“Parents have the legal option of home schooling their children in this state, but why does Kentucky not allow these same parents the option of allowing their children to play sports for their local public middle and high schools?” said Rep. Lee. “Tim Tebow is a fine example of how combining home school and public school athletics help shape and mold our children into the leaders of tomorrow. We in Kentucky should want the same for students who are home schooled, which is why I filed this bill.”

Lee’s proposal would require home school students to register with the local middle or high school in their district, and be subject to the same requirements as public school students to participate, including taking a physical and meeting academic eligibility requirements. The bill would also require the parents of a home schooled student to transport them to and from athletic events to address liability issues.

But Julian Tackett, commissioner of the KHSAA, said after a review of the proposal, it would appear that athletic participation rights would be extended to any non-public school student if the school where the student attended (including home school) did not offer that particular sport.

“This proposed act is particularly different from past acts, as it appears to offer a blanket opportunity for any nonpublic school to have its students participate in school-based sports at another school,” Tackett said in a statement released by the KHSAA. “For example, a strict read would appear to allow a student at Sayre (a Lexington private school) to participate in football in their district of residence. This is much more than just a home school proposal.”

Tackett also noted that KHSAA oversight only applies to the state’s 277 member high schools. Participation in extra curricular activities at the middle school level, which is also part of Lee’s proposal, is decided by local officials.

Tackett said he looked forward to talking with Lee and other members of the General Assembly about the issue.

“There is ample time before this bill begins to work its way through consideration and the legislative process,” Tackett said. “We certainly look forward to and welcome the discussion of this topic with Rep. Lee and all other members of the General Assembly, as well as our constituents and the KHSAA Board of Control, as we all work together for what is best for students in our Commonwealth.”

There have been previous discussions about allowing home school students to play sports in public schools. Among the association’s concerns:

• Academic accountability. A student’s curriculum would have to be verified to allow for comparison of equitable academic performance to those students in public schools. This extends not only to grade awarding concerns, but the requirements for a student to be enrolled full-time (four hours per day) of the six hour day for instruction;

• A lack of any state required certification or requirements for home school instructors compared to requirements for public school teachers;

• The ability of students failing to meet the academic standards and requirements of public schools to withdraw from that school and be immediately eligible simply by being enrolled in home school;

• Schools covering the expenses of a student who is not paying the full cost of education to attend;

• The displacement of an otherwise eligible public school student, who has earned their time to participate, by a non-enrolled student.

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Written by Glenn Osborne, Sports Editor at KY Forward (re-published with permission)