In spite of concerns raised from both sides, the Indiana House has advanced a bill that would allow home-schooled students to play sports on their local high school teams. The full House should delay action until consensus is reached.
House Bill 1399 gives students enrolled in a nonaccredited nonpublic school, including a home school, the right to participate in interscholastic athletic activities. The bill passed the House Education Committee on Monday with a 12-1 vote. Bobby Cox, commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association, testified against the bill, noting that it set up an uneven playing field for students.
Student-athletes in public, accredited private and parochial schools must meet regular academic and attendance requirements to participate in extracurricular activities. A home-school student would have no attendance requirements and the only academic requirement in the bill is to post a minimum standard score on an unspecified nationally recognized test once a year.
The legislation stipulates that the student may participate in high school sports at the public school in the area in which he or she resides. But Cox rightly noted that districts with open enrollment, including Fort Wayne Community Schools, could set the stage for recruiting problems.
Opposition to home-school participation is clear from comments collected from public, private and parochial-school principals in an IHSAA survey released in December. The IHSAA has consistently taken the position that a student should not go to a school for athletically motivated reasons, wrote Bob Schantz of Fort Waynes Canterbury High School, an accredited private institution. I think that allowing home-school students to participate could be perceived as operating under a double standard.
Support for participation of home-school students on public school sports teams isnt even unanimous in the home-school community.
Terry Daniels, volunteer athletic director for the Huntington Eagles Sports Club, told The Journal Gazette last year that states that allow it have trouble supporting home-school sport leagues like the one he and his wife operate. He suggested a reasonable compromise: Instead allow teams of home-schooled students to compete against IHSAA teams.
Concerns about the bill even come from the states school chief. (Folks) make decisions, and decisions have ramifications, state Superintendent Tony Bennett, a former high school basketball coach, said last year. If I am choosing an educational path for my child, I understand with that choice I have set up some limitations.
With no clear consensus on the wisdom of allowing home-schooled students to play public school sports, the General Assembly should leave this bill on the sidelines.