Sports Access Discussion Group
The third and final meeting of the homeschool sports access discussion group convened by the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) was held on October 1, and once again, The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers) was there to represent the interests of the homeschooling community. As at the first two meetings in July and September, group participants represented various organizations associated with public schools, including the Virginia High School League (VHSL), the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals, the Virginia Parent Teacher Association, and school board members and superintendents from around the state.
Presentation on Part-Time Enrollment
Group members received a presentation on the subject of part-time academic enrollment for homeschooled students. By law, school boards are empowered to create their own policies regarding part-time enrollment and the participation of part-time students in cocurricular and extracurricular clubs and activities. VaHomeschoolers’ annual school division policy review indicates that just over half of Virginia school boards do allow part-time enrollment, and in most cases, part-time students are permitted to participate in clubs and other activities. Notably, VHSL programs are not accessible to part-time students, due to VHSL’s eligibility guidelines (school divisions cannot permit such participation even if they wish to, at risk of losing their eligibility to compete). Matt Haas, Assistant Superintendent of Albemarle County Schools, told the group that of the approximately 400 homeschooled students in his division, 8 are enrolled part-time in public school classes. Some of these students are involved in extra-curricular activities as well. Mr. Haas explained that, due to VHSL eligibility requirements, homeschooled students who participate in Albemarle’s club-based (non-VHSL) rowing program in the fall are excluded from competing alongside their teammates against other schools’ VHSL rowing programs in the spring.
Presentation on State Homeschooling Laws
A second presentation by VSBA staff attorney Wendell Roberts focused on the variety of homeschool statutes in different states, and compared requirements for documenting academic progress. Mr. Roberts noted that Virginia offers “greater flexibility” for documenting academic progress than some other states that do allow homeschooled students to participate in public school athletics and other interscholastic programs. While Virginia does offer options other than standardized testing, which is the only option available in some states, Virginia requires annual evidence of progress that is submitted to the school division superintendent, while some other states require testing only periodically (for example, only in certain grades) or do not require that testing results be turned in to school officials.
Discussion Group Conclusion
The group wrapped up its work with a dialogue on the process by which the final report of the group members to the VSBA Board of Directors will be created and reviewed by group members. VSBA President Joan Wodiska indicated that she would work with VSBA staff and the discussion group’s co-chairs (Amy Wilson of VaHomeschoolers and Tom Horn, athletic director for George Mason High School in Falls Church) to craft the report, which will then be circulated among group members for commentary. All of the documents shared by group members during the course of the meetings will remain available for public review on the document portal created by VSBA. The final report will also be available when it is complete.
VaHomeschoolers encourages homeschoolers to visit the portal and take a look at the information there. Feel free to share a link to the portal with your local school board members and superintendents, athletic directors and coaches, and state Delegates and Senators — encourage them to become more informed on this issue, particularly if it is one that is important to your family.
The discussion group did not come to any conclusions or craft any compromises regarding access by homeschooled students to VHSL athletics and activities. Nevertheless, VaHomeschoolers found the dialogue process to be valuable. A great deal of information was shared and the concerns and viewpoints of all parties were more clearly identified. VaHomeschoolers has offered to participate in further discussions next summer. In the meantime, homeschoolers who would like to see sports and activities access become a reality in Virginia should set their sights on the 2013 General Assembly.
A local television reporter from Charlottesville station NBC 29 attended the meeting and interviewed VaHomeschoolers Government Affairs Director and Discussion Group Co-Chair Amy Wilson, along with VSBA President Joan Wodiska and Discussion Group Co-Chair Tom Horn of Falls Church. Click to read the story and watch the news footage!
If you have any questions or concerns about these meetings, or any other legislative issue, please contact Amy Wilson, VaHomeschoolers Director of Government Affairs.