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'Tebow Bill' May Let Home-Schoolers Try Out for Public School Sports Teams

McLean-area delegates split in votes for and against the bill, which passed the House of Delegates and is awaiting action in the Virginia Senate.

By Paige Baxter
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Home-schooled students in Virginia could participate in public school sports under the so-called “Tebow bill” that has been passed by the House and will be considered by a Senate committee this week.

Delegates voted 56-43 for House Bill 1442, which will be heard by the Senate Health and Education Committee Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Del. Robert Bell (R-Albemarle) would require public schools to allow home-schoolers to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities.

McLean area Delegates Bob Brink and Barbara Comstock split their votes—Brink voted against the legislation; Comstock voted in favor of it. 

Which of our delegates do you agree with? Tell us in the comments!

Many parents who home-school their children support the legislation, which is nicknamed for NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who played football for his local high school while being home-schooled in Florida.

“I should be able to choose whether my kids play sports or not,” said Brad Foster, the father of five athletic home-schooled boys in Culpeper.

Currently in Virginia, no student who is being educated at home can join a public school sports team during the regular season. Families with home-schooled athletes like Foster’s must find other ways to participate in sports or opt out of playing sports completely.

Foster said the opportunity for his children to play sports goes away once they reached middle school. To allow his children to play sports, Foster has organized a basketball team. However, that’s expensive because home-schooling families must rent gym space whereas public schools provide everything for sports teams, Foster said.

“We want to use the privilege because we also pay taxes for [public schools] as well,” Foster said. Parents who home-school their children are not exempt from taxes.

Virginia has more than 32,000 home-schoolers, including about 8,000 at the high school level, according to the Virginia Department of Education. Albemarle County, for example, has more than 500 home-schoolers.

The Keyser family in Albemarle County also has struggled with the problem. Ethan Keyser, 17, is a junior in high school and likes to play football and lacrosse.

“I would like the opportunity to try out on a high school athletic team,” Ethan said.

Until high school, he played both sports because of various recreation teams, according to his father, Matt Keyser. Now that Ethan is in high school, he cannot play either sport except during off-season.

During off-season, Ethan was asked to play for several traveling high-school lacrosse teams, Matt Keyser said.

“He’s 6-foot-one, 210 pounds, and every coach he has ever played for said they wished Ethan could play during the regular season,” Keyser said.

Ethan is now looking to apply for college. “It would’ve looked good on my college transcripts to have that I played several high school sports,” he said.

When the House voted on HB 1442 on Jan. 31, Republicans generally supported the legislation and Democrats mostly opposed it.

Dels. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) and Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), for instance, both voted against bill.

“The public school system is not an a la carte menu that you can pick and choose what you want to participate in,” McClellan said. She said the “Tebow bill” raises a “matter of fairness.”

Toscano agreed.

“One worry is that you would have a situation where a youngster in a public school was denied to participate because a home-schooler took their spot,” he said.

After passing the House, HB 1442 was referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Health. The committee’s next meeting is at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in Senate Room B in the General Assembly Building. If the committee approves the bill, it will go to the full Senate for a vote.

Sen. Thomas Garrett (R-Lynchburg) on Jan. 31 withdrew an identical measure, Senate Bill 812, that he had filed in December.

anne February 12, 2013 at 01:25 PM
why would you exclude this group? team sports appear to be a great way for children to learn the value of cooperation. if a home schooler is better than one who isn't, it is wrong to deny him that opportunity particularly in view of the fact that EQUAL taxes are being paid. competition isn't all bad--it means you have to try harder or find something else and this continues through out a lifetime. good for ms comstock.
PJ Buckley February 12, 2013 at 03:56 PM
Sad to see Del. Brink voting against common sense. These kids have parents who pay taxes as much as anyone else. There is NO good reason they shouldn't be allowed to participate in sports. Three more cheers for Barbara Comstock.
Morgan February 12, 2013 at 07:45 PM
What happens when a home schooler is cut from the team? Will the parents sue because of some perceived bias? What about the fees that every high school team requires of participants? How will the home schooler receive notices if not in the school? Current athletes must meet academic standards, How will the home schoolers satisfy these requirements? Which high school do they try out for, or will this lead to School team "shopping"? What about private school kids - their parents pay taxes too, maybe they should also be allowed to try out for the public school team? There are a lot of unanswered questions that deal with "Fairness" that are not addressed in the bill. Comstock once again has her minions praise actions which are not thought out but are put out there for their PR effect. If home schoolers do not want to waste their taxes, send the kids to school!
Kyle McCauley February 13, 2013 at 03:26 AM
It's my understanding that the Tebow bill “would let local school boards decide whether to allow home-schooled students to try out for their local team (to avoid families shopping around for the best team) and has provisions designed to prevent dropouts or students not academically eligible from skirting the rules.” It simply allows a county to choose if they want to extend this opportunity, no county or School Board is required to do so. The Tebow bill is much like the bill repealing the “King’s Dominion” law on school starting time that allows localities to decide if they want to start school before Labor Day. Both bills provide local choice and local options. Right now, local school districts that want to include home-schooled students in sports are barred from even trying. Under the Tebow bill each School Board and County decides what is best for their students. This is a very reasonable measure that allows different school systems around the state to decide what is best for their communities. This bill is so modest that even the Washington Post editorialized in favor of it on February 11th

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