While homeschoolers in Virginia are allowed to enroll part-time in public school classes, they are currently not allowed to play on public high school interscholastic sports teams due to regulations established by the Virginia High School League (VHSL). The VHSL writes athletic eligibility rules and guidelines that all of its member public high schools in the state must follow.
The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers supports homeschool access to public school programs and services and since 1997 has worked to increase access at the state and local level. We have attempted numerous times to work with VHSL and other public school organizations to develop voluntary agreements to support the inclusion of qualified homeschooled students in VHSL programs. VaHomeschoolers is the only statewide homeschooling organization that has consistently lobbied in favor of sports access legislation (“Tebow Bills”) in the Virginia General Assembly.
What is the Latest on this Issue for 2017?
Del. Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville) has once again put forth a bill to allow homeschooled students the opportunity to participate in sports and other competitive interscholastic activities (such as debate) at their local public high schools. The bill number for 2017 is HB1578. The intent of this bill is to prohibit Virginia school divisions from being members of the Virginia High School League unless the league modifies its eligibility rules to include homeschooled students, subject to a number of rules and requirements. Homeschoolers would only be eligible to try out at the public high school assigned to their residence, and would have to have homeschooled for two full, consecutive academic years in compliance with the home instruction statute. The bill also includes other eligibility restrictions for homeschoolers, in line with many of the requirements for public school students. This legislation allows public school systems to decide the question of homeschool eligibility at the local level, since it states that homeschool eligibility “shall be subject to all policies governing such participation that the local school board may establish.”
VaHomeschoolers continues to support passage of a sports access bill, and will be working throughout the legislative session to communicate with homeschoolers about what they can do to help these bills become law.
Facts about Sports Access
- If the legislation passes, local school divisions would still get to decide whether homeschoolers can try out in their schools.
- Homeschoolers would not be able to decide what school to play for. Just like other students, they’d try out only for the school in their attendance zone.
- There are not homeschool sports leagues that serve homeschoolers in most parts of the state.
- There are not community sports leagues at a competitive high school level in many parts of Virginia.
- Homeschoolers already take classes at public schools on a part-time basis and have done so for years. Over half of public school divisions in Virginia allow part-time enrollment.
- A majority of states in the country allow homeschoolers to try out for high school teams.
- 67% of Virginians favor homeschoolers’ participation on high school teams. (Commonwealth Education Poll)
- Homeschoolers meet the state’s academic requirements and are legally meeting education laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- Dropouts would not be able to claim homeschooling status to play sports.
- International exchange students can play high school sports at a local public high school. Your homeschooled neighbor – from a tax-paying family – is prohibited from trying out.
- Homeschoolers would pay fees to cover costs associated with their participation.
- Homeschooled teens talented and dedicated enough to play a sport at the high school level have already been playing sports with friends and coaches for years. They’re team players and dedicated to their community. Many have brothers or sisters who attend public school, with moms or dads who are teachers, librarians, business leaders, or community leaders.