The Post’s View

Should home-schoolers play on public school teams?

VIRGINIA STUDENTS who play high school sports or engage in other public school activities have to meet certain criteria. They have to take a minimum number of courses, maintain a minimum grade-point average and meet other eligibility requirements. If they do so, they have the privilege of participating in their school’s organized activities. A bill pending in the Virginia General Assembly would upend that privilege into a right by allowing home-schooled students to join sports teams and other clubs in what would have been their district schools.

We would never question the choice of parents who home-school their children. But, as with any choice, there are trade-offs. Students who opt not to attend the local high school shouldn’t expect special treatment, and lawmakers in Richmond should not meddle in matters that are better decided by those who govern the activities that are critical to schools and their communities.

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Legislation to allow home-schooled students to play varsity sports at public schools — called the “Tebow Bill” in honor of the Denver Broncos quarterback who played football at his local high school in Florida even though he was home-schooled — passed the House of Delegates and is headed for a hearing in the education committee of the state Senate. The bill, as The Post’s Anita Kumar reported, has been introduced since 2005 with little success, but the backing of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and the newfound strength of Republicans have enhanced its chances. Del. Robert B. Bell (R-Charlottesville), the bill’s sponsor, predicts a close vote if it makes it to the Senate floor.

We share Mr. Bell’s empathy for home-schooled students who would welcome an opportunity to join teams. But the current ban is the result of the collective judgment of more than 300 public high schools that comprise the Virginia High School League governing high school activities in the state. Many of the requirements devised by this group to ensure a level playing field cannot be met by home-schooled students. “How fair is it,” Ken Tilley, the group’s executive director, asked, “that a student at the school needs to pass five subjects for credit toward graduation while the home-schooled student simply needs a letter or report card from the parent indicating satisfactory academic progress in just one or two subjects?”

There’s also the possibility of abuse by coaches trying to lure the most-talented home-schoolers and the danger of discouraging students who might otherwise stay in school or improve their grades for a shot at a varsity jacket.

We don’t fault home-schooling parents for advocating for their children, especially in less populated areas with less school choice and fewer recreational sports leagues. But this bill — no matter the allure of Tim Tebow — is not the answer. Being on a team or in a debate club or working on the yearbook is part of being a member of a school community. Better to work with the Virginia High School League on possible solutions or strengthen the home-school athletic programs already in existence.

 
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