A bill that would let Virginia homeschooled high school students participate in public school sports died in the legislature Wednesday.
The bill is commonly called the “Tebow Bill” for Tim Tebow, the former Denver Broncos quarterback who was home-schooled in Florida but was allowed to play football at his local high school. Introduced by Rep. Rob B. Bell III (R-Albemarle), it passed in the Republican-controlled House but was passed by indefinitely in a Democratic-led Senate committee.
The bill has been introduced in Virginia since 2005 with little success. Even in 2012, when Republicans controlled the Senate and the governor’s mansion, then-Sen. Harry B. Blevins (R-Chesapeake), a retired public school principal, voted with Democrats against it.
Several children testified that they would miss out on social activities as well as scholarships if the bill failed. One runner said she had to leave public school for health reasons and couldn’t rejoin track because of the rules.
“They’re good kids,” Bell said. Twenty-nine other states, he added, allow for such participation.
Officials representing the Virginia High School League (VHSL), the Virginia Education Association, school principals, superintendents and boards countered that it was wrong to let children compete in the sports without following the same rules and meeting the same educational standards as public school athletes.
“Athletics are a privilege, not a right,” said Ken Tilley, executive director of the VHSL. The Virginia Home School Athletic Association also opposes the bill, he said, because it maintains its own teams for home-schooled students.
The bill would have banned public schools from partnering with the VHSL — which governs high school activites in the state — because it forbids home-schooled kids from playing sports or being involved in other programs such as drama, debate and yearbook.
It only pertains to high schools, because home-schooled children in lower grades are often able to play at their local public schools.