HB1578, the “Tebow” or sports access bill, prohibits public schools from joining an organization governing interscholastic programs that does not deem eligible for participation a student who (i) receives home instruction; (ii) has demonstrated evidence of progress for two consecutive academic years; (iii) is in compliance with immunization requirements; (iv) is entitled to free tuition in a public school;(v) has not reached the age of 19 by August 1 of the current academic year;(vi) is an amateur who receives no compensation but participates solely for the educational, physical, mental, and social benefits of the activity;(vii) complies with all disciplinary rules and is subject to all codes of conduct applicable to all public high school athletes; and (viii) complies with all other rules governing awards, all-star games, maximum consecutive semesters of high school enrollment, parental consents, physical examinations, and transfers applicable to all high school athletes. The bill provides that no local school board is required to establish a policy to permit students who receive home instruction to participate in interscholastic programs. The bill permits reasonable fees to be charged to students who receive home instruction to cover the costs of participation in such interscholastic programs, including the costs of additional insurance, uniforms, and equipment. The bill has an expiration date of July 1, 2022.
The bills specifically states that homeschool eligibility would be subject to the policy of each local school board – there would be no mandate on public schools. This means that, if the bill becomes law, homeschoolers would need to work with their local school boards to create local access policies. In that event, VaHomeschoolers will offer tips and talking points to assist homeschoolers who want to take that step. Qualified students would only be eligible at the public school in their residential attendance zone (no “team shopping”). They would have to be bona fide homeschoolers, in compliance with Virginia’s home instruction statute for at least two full, consecutive school years, including the two years immediately prior to seeking participation (“dropouts” would not qualify). Homeschoolers would also have to provide proof of two full years of satisfactory academic progress as required by the home instruction statute. Other eligibility rules required by the VHSL would also apply.