Homeschoolers and Public Sports

Many parents who decide top homeschool their children do so knowing that many factors go into their decision, one of which is that their children would not be able to participate in the sports offered in public schools. Tim Tebow the popular quarterback who was homeschooled and allowed to play on his high school football team where he excelled and went on to great things at the university of Florida has inspired homeschoolers to try to play sports in their area. There is even a bill in Richmond Virginia named for him the Tim Tebow law if passed, House Bill 947, will allow homeschoolers to play sports at a public school.

But it is not that easy there are many people who would object to homeschoolers that are allowed to play public sports alongside students who need to meet certain grade and behavior requirements to play. They even suggest forming their own leagues and teams or joining other associations outside of public schools, church groups, YMCA, or other athletic clubs. Many parents of public school students question the fairness and hypocrisy of wanting their children on public school teams, these parents spurned the school because it was not good enough for their children and now only want to participate in certain aspects.

Of course the standard rebuttal for this argument from homeschooling parents is that they pay taxes too and have the right to play on public school teams. This is quite possibly the most overstated argument when discussing this issue and is demeaning to the homeschool movement. There are many people who pay taxes and do not have children yet they do not receive a refund, many people go years without needing police or firemen, yet they do not receive refunds for what they do not use. So claiming that you pay taxes is not an argument for why your children deserve to be involved in public school sports. It is also not a constitutional right that you are allowed to play sports. For example, in 1996, a New York appellate court ruled against a homeschooler whose local school district denied him access to interscholastic sports. The court held that, “[P]articipation in interscholastic sports is merely an expectation and no fundamental right is involved…” Bradstreet v. Sobol, 650 N.Y.S.2d 402, 403 (A.D.3 Dept 1996).

Referring to other case precedent around the country, the Supreme Court of Montana decided that “participation in extracurricular activities was not a fundamental right.” (supra. 1316) The court was unable to conclude “a private school student’s interest in participating in public school extracurricular activities is more important than the school district’s policy decision… that it needs to restrict participation to those students who are enrolled in the public school system.” Kaptein v. Conrad School District, 931 P.2nd 1311, 1317 (Mont 1997).

While the debate for homeschoolers to play public sports will be decide by local laws, we must keep in mind that these are children and if we are to deny them the right to play in the public schools we need to afford them every opportunity to play in organized sports it would be unfair to close a door without opening another one.