A bill that would allow homeschool students in West Virginia to participate in extracurricular activities at the local public school district passed the West Virginia Senate Education Committee on a voice vote Tuesday evening. The bill heads to the full Senate for three readings and a vote.
The bill also passed out of committee in 2017, but was vetoed by Gov. Jim Justice. The 2020 Legislative Session marks the sixth year that Sen. Charles Trump has sponsored the bill, and he said he’s deeply committed to it passing.
The bill, Senate Bill 131, also known as the “Tim Tebow Bill,” would allow students to participate in the extracurricular activities at a designated public school. The bill would require students to register with the school and adhere to the same academic and disciplinary standards. They would need to pass the same sports physical as public school students in their respective districts and receive the same vaccinations.
Students would be required to maintain at least a C average, which the principal or guidance counselor of the school would likely be in charge of determining.
Named after the former football star at the University of Florida who was home-schooled but played at a public school, the bill applies to homeschool students. But it also allows students at private and religious schools that are non-members of the West Virginia Secondary Activities Commission (WVSAAC) to play sports at public schools.
The bill does not guarantee a homeschool student a spot on a public school sports team, but it does guarantee an opportunity to try out.
Bernie Dolan, the executive director of the WVSAAC, the state’s governing body of high school sports, cheerleading and marching band, testified that he was against the bill. He said he felt the “virtual school option” gives homeschool students the opportunity to take part in the public school, and feels the Tim Tebow bill isn’t necessary.
The virtual school option allows students to be enrolled in public school, but work virtually on a computer at home or elsewhere. He said he felt whether you are a member of the WVSAAC or not, every student should have to abide by the same rules.
Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA), also opposes the bill. He said he spent many years as a girls’ soccer coach, and remembers his players working hard during a game, doing homework on the bus ride home, and still attend school at 8 a.m. the next day.
“They were determined, and that’s just what they did, and we always knew what they were doing,” Lee said. “For students to be able to play in a game that day, they had to be present at school that day. So, how do we prove a homeschool student is actually at home taking part in school?”
Lee said it’s no secret WVEA has been outspoken about its issues with the Tim Tebow bill, and while he supports the right to homeschool, he feels the “virtual school” was accommodating enough for those who wish to conduct school at home and still play in public school sports.
Trump, the lead sponsor of the bill, said when he hears those who oppose the bill and their arguments, he feels people are justifying why it’s fair to exclude children from taking part in something.
“I just really think that’s the wrong perspective,” Trump said. “We should be looking for ways to expand opportunities for all children in West Virginia, not just children in public schools.”
Andrea Flohr of Shady Spring has four children and has homeschooled for seven years. She is the Foundations and Essentials Director of Classical Conversations, where her local community serves 55 homeschooled students pre-K to 12th grade.
According to Flohr, Classical Conversations is a classical Christian education resource used by homeschoolers in all 50 states and 15 other countries. As a homeschool mother, she’s for the Tim Tebow bill.
“West Virginia is finishing last when it comes to offering equal opportunity to homeschoolers,” she said. “It is the way the free world is moving as 31 states already offer a Tim Tebow bill or similar bill. It is a very pro-kid piece of legislation, and I will always vote and advocate for things that are pro-kid.
“We shouldn’t penalize kids from access to opportunities that grow and enrich their lives and help them become the people God created them to be because of how a family chooses to live out their convictions in educating them,” Flohr said.
She’s listened to concerns on both sides of the bill, but feels providing equal opportunity with sports, band and other extracurriculars should belong to all students.
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