Washington School District

A new bill introduced in the state Senate would allow home-schooled students to participate on public school athletic teams governed by the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA).

SB 130 would force the MSHSAA to change its current policy on barring public schools from participating in statewide activities associations which prohibit home-schoolers. It was introduced by Sen. Ed Emery and has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer told The Missourian she has some concerns regarding the bill.

VanLeer noted that public school students have to meet certain eligibility requirements, as well as classroom expectations set forth by the state and local school district, to participate in sports and extracurricular activities.

“I’m unclear as to the curricular requirements and documentation that is required of a home-schooled student,” she said. “I think eligibility standards should be equitable.”

Ultimately, VanLeer said the district wants students to feel like part of the school, exhibiting pride in school and athletics/extracurricular activities.

“We want this participation to drive their passion and desire to excel in our classrooms and vice versa,” she said. “This is true for music, drama, art, athletics and everything in between. You are representing your school while learning how to compete and participate.”

SB 130 was introduced Jan. 9 and a second reading of the bill was held Jan. 23 before it was referred to the education committee.

The bill summary states that “no public school shall be a member of statewide activities association if such association prohibits a home-schooled student from participating in any event or activity offered by a public school in the school district in which the student resides where such association exercises authority, rules, or guidelines for participating in such events or activities.”

The bill has both critics and supporters.

Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for home-schooled children, says it “is well-documented that access to public school athletics programs benefits home-schooled students without creating problems for either public schools or other students.”

Currently, 30 states grant home-schooled students access to public school athletics programs.

However, about one-third of these states either require students to be enrolled at the public school part-time and taking some classes, or each school district must approve its own policy.

And, in most all of these states, home-schooled students must meet the same academic requirements as public school students.