“Why shouldn’t home-schoolers be allowed?” asked Diane James, a mother of four home-schooled children in elementary and pre-kindergarten who would play sports at Robinson Secondary School.
“As home-schooling parents, we pay taxes that are used to support public schools. We are getting no tax write-off for not using the public schools,” James said. “Shouldn’t we be allowed to at least have our children participate in sports? ... My kids would have greater opportunities for sports activities, since home-school activities are somewhat limited.”
She added that, if approved, allowing home-schooled children to participate in public school sports would aid her children in developing relationships with other children in the community.
About 2,440 students are home-schooled in Fairfax County. Of those, fewer than 500 are high school age, according to Fairfax County public schools. Because their parents have opted out of the public school system, several areas of service are not open to the students, according to the school system.
“A home-school student can do part-time enrollment and, if approved [through an application process], they can enroll in up to two core curriculum courses” each year, said Lori Hershey, the school system’s home instruction specialist.
Fewer than 20 home-schooled students enroll part time, she said, adding that usually the classes they enroll in are mathematics, foreign language or science. Currently, home-schooled students are not allowed to enroll in enrichment courses such as art and music, Hershey said.
The School Board does not support the allowance, said Michael Molloy, the school system’s director of government relations.
“There’s an issue of equity,” he said, adding public school students must maintain academic and attendance benchmarks to participate in sports.
Legislation allowing home-schooled students to compete in sports gained approval in the Virginia House of Delegates with a 59-39 vote on Feb. 8. The legislation now awaits Senate approval.
Of the delegates who voted against the legislation, most were Democrats, and many represent Northern Virginia and other urban areas.
“It’s just not fair to have kids who have done all the time in the classroom and met the grade requirements compete against someone who hasn’t had to fulfill those requirements,” Del. Kaye Kory (D-Falls Church) said.
The Virginia High School League, which regulates public school sports, requires athletes to be students in good standing academically and in their attendance records.
“I’ve heard from a lot of constituents … essentially [saying] that it’s not fair,” she said. Kory added her public school constituents think that if a parent chooses not to send their children to public school, they are opting out of the system on all fronts.