CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Among the bills that will soon be sent to Gov. Jim Justice, one piece of legislation would allow home-schooled students to participate in public school sports if approved.
House Bill 2196 would permit these students to try out for athletic and band activities at public schools and certain private schools. The new rule would also apply to students of private and parochial schools that lack programs.
The bill has been nicknamed the “Tim Tebow bill” after minor league baseball and former football player Tim Tebow. His parents home-schooled him while Tebow was an athlete at a local public school.
He later played quarterback at the University of Florida, winning two national championships and a Heisman Trophy, and three seasons in the NFL.
The House of Delegates approved the bill 51-48 Saturday, and the Senate voted 27-5 the same evening.
Jamie Buckland, 36, of Flat Top, is the mother of four children, ages 3 months to 16 years old. She said she home-schools the three oldest children and feels her kids have been unable to participate in programs “we help fund by our tax dollars.”
“I don’t want us to be seen as takers, like we are taking the opportunity or the privilege for athletics and band and we’re not giving anything,” she said.
Buckland said her 16-year-old son Ethan could gain valuable experience from being part of a high school baseball team. He is currently in the Little League program and will be unable to participate after he turns 17.
She said the bill would not give him special privilege over other students.
“This legislation would require us to show the same progress academically that (public school) students are receiving,” she said.
Students would be required to have a 2.0 GPA and would have to pay any fees required to join a program.
Bernie Dolan, executive director of West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, said his organization is against the bill.
“We just feel like there is not enough consistency between non-member and member schools,” he said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“We just feel like it is going to create an opportunity for people to game the system.”
Dolan said it is possible for schools without programs to start their own groups, noting Pickens School in Randolph County which has a track team.
During the 2015-2016 school year, 37 students were enrolled at the institution.
“It doesn’t take many,” he said.
Buckland said home-schooled students should have the same opportunities as students at public school children.
“I want to teach my children to give and support their community,” she said.
Thirty states have laws allowing these students to try out for these groups.