Homeschool Sports Access: Our Work in the “Off-Season”
If the General Assembly were a sport (and some would say it is, and a rough one at that), then summer and fall would be the off-season, time for players to regroup, rest and strengthen for the next season. But when it comes to homeschool sports access, there is no off-season this year. Against a national backdrop in which homeschooled students continue to gain access to public school sports in an increasing number of states (South Carolina and Arkansas are the newest states to welcome them), The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers) continues to be the only statewide homeschooling organization working toward such access here in Virginia.
This summer we’ve been representing homeschoolers’ interests as part of a sports access discussion group that brings together organizations and individuals from across the state. We’ve also been doing our own research to find out more about how eligibility works for homeschoolers in other states. Read on to learn more about what we’ve been doing, and about how you can help make access possible.
VSBA Discussion Group Report
The first meeting of the homeschool sports access discussion group, hosted in Richmond on July 31 by the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA), was encouraging. VSBA President Joan Wodiska served as moderator and set a positive tone, stating that she expects participants to work together to seek a compromise that will serve “the interests of all of Virginia’s children.” Some of the meeting participants indicated that compromise might not be possible from their perspective, but the overall tone was congenial.
During the July meeting, Government Affairs Director Amy Wilson and VaHomeschoolers’ President Parrish Mort represented the perspective of homeschooling families. Other discussion group participants represented the Virginia High School League, the Virginia PTA, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, and the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals; several school board members from around the state participated, as did a high school principal and a high school athletic director.
VaHomeschoolers is taking a leadership role in the group. Amy Wilson was chosen by participants as one of two co-chairs responsible for preparing the final report on the group’s findings (the other co-chair is Tom Horn, athletic director at George Mason High School in Fairfax County). Wilson has also submitted a wealth of documents to the entire discussion group, with data on sports access laws and policies in other states, information about homeschooling in Virginia and more. All of the group’s documents are available online for public review.
Other States Make It Work
In June, VaHomeschoolers conducted an informal email survey of executive directors of high school athletic and activities associations in 20 states that allow homeschool participation. We asked how these programs are working in their states. While our results are not statistically significant, the responses we got from 8 associations indicate that in those states including homeschoolers is generally working well: only small numbers of homeschooled students are participating, and their inclusion has not had a negative impact on public high school programs. Some survey respondents were quite positive about homeschoolers’ inclusion: “In our estimation having the opportunity to participate while living in the community is beneficial,” said one, while another characterized feedback from schools and coaches as “very positive.”
Government Affairs Director Amy Wilson also spent some time this summer reading through the handbooks of high school athletic and activities associations in several of the states that do allow homeschoolers to participate to see exactly what kinds of eligibility guidelines they’ve developed. VaHomeschoolers is sharing this information with the VSBA discussion group participants. We hope that a variety of models that are already in place may help the group to decide what can work best in Virginia.
Schedule of Upcoming Meetings
The VSBA Discussion Group will hold three more meetings and they are all open to the public:
- Thursday, September 6 at 10 a.m.
- Monday, September 17 at 10 a.m.
- Monday, October 1 at 10 a.m.
Location of the meetings:
Virginia School Boards Association
200 Hansen Road, Charlottesville VA.
What You Can Do
- Share this email by clicking any of the social buttons and forward this email.
- Attend the upcoming VSBA meetings.
- Email VSBAto express your sports access support.
- Ask your local school board representative to email VSBA with their support (learn why)
- Sign Del. Rob Bell’s petition.
If you have any questions or concerns about these meetings, or any other legislative issue, please contact Amy Wilson, VaHomeschoolers Director of Government Affairs.