Home-schooled students became eligible to play sports in public schools after a Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association ruling in December 2010. Ultimately, it is up to each school systems to determine the criteria.
Craig Thompson said many boards across the state are simply adding a new policy to strictly deny home-schoolers the right to play sports in the tax-funded schools.
According to Thompson, Carter, Franklin, Loudon, Nashville-Metro and Sumner counties have opted to allow home-schoolers to participate in public school athletics.
The Bradley County Board of Education Chair Troy Weathers said the issue will be discussed at a work session prior the next scheduled meeting on Aug. 11.
He said there are many issues to discuss such as grades. The administration will present information and make recommendations.
“It’s not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ issue,” he said. “If we open it up for football, we have to open it up for all other activities including cheerleading. We have to take care of kids, but we have to take care of Bradley County students. The board will debate it and the administration will come with recommendations.”
Weathers said the next meeting would not be too late for home-schoolers to play football this fall.
Cleveland Board of Education will discuss home-schoolers at its September meeting, according to board president Peggy Pesterfield. She said Dr. Martin Ringstaff will present his research and recommendations at that meeting.
“It needs to be discussed because of the rule change. We periodically review policy to keep it up to date,” she said. “This is a difficult question and we need to gather information.”
She said Cleveland City Schools has not been presented with a request from a home-schooler to participate in public school activities.
Thompson said county board members critical of the idea have not expressed any logical ideas or reasons, “and I have spoken with every board member personally at this point. Board members who are for it have expressed several reasons.”
Parents of home-schooled students pay taxes like everyone else and public schools are required to serve home-schooled students with special needs.
“If we believe in doing what is best for the kids, then giving home-schoolers the right to compete for a spot on a team is only natural,” Thompson said. “Home-schoolers generally can be a good role model and positive influence. Precedent has already been set in this County for non-public school students to play in band and athletics when Phil Driscoll’s children were allowed to play in middle and high school.”