Your All Star Student-Athlete
You have concerns about the public school system. Is my daughter safe? Are standardized tests really helping my son learn? Do the teachers truly care about my children’s academic advancements?
For these reasons, you have decided to remove your children from public school so you can ensure they are getting the educational enrichment they need and deserve at home.
However, there is a problem. Your son loves football. Besides, he is pretty good at it, which is a big deal in Texas. What effect would your choice to home school your children have on his athletic goals in the future? Could he still be part of the team?
Tim Tebow Laws
With the increased movement nationally toward homeschooling, the issue of homeschooled children completing their education academically and athletically has become an issue for the individual state legislatures to address.
If you are at least aware of NCAA football and the NFL, you have probably heard the name “Tim Tebow” a time or two. What you may not have heard is that he was homeschooled in high school, but allowed to play for the local public school team. This lead to his attending the University of Florida, where he was awarded the Heisman Trophy in 2007, which lead to his being drafted into professional football. He had the ability to do this because Florida had a law that allowed home schooled athletes the opportunity to use their public school’s facilities and play for the team.
Another example is Collin Klein, a Kansas State Quarterback who was a Heisman Trophy Finalist in 2012. (You might remember that this was the year Johnny Manziel won the prestigious award). Collin Klein’s home state of Colorado had a Tebow Law that allowed him to play football for the public high school team. Proponents of Tebow Laws urge that the home-schooled athletes should have access to University Interscholastic League (UIL) groups that lead to scholarship opportunities for college since these families pay taxes that support the programs.
But I Don’t Live in Florida or Colorado.
Then perhaps you are lucky enough to live in one of the thirty-four states that currently have laws allowing homeschooled athletes to participate on a public high school sports team. That’s right. Texas is currently in the minority of states that does not offer this opportunity to its home schooled athletes.
There have been efforts though. The Texas Home School Coalition Association has drafted a Tim Tebow Bill for the Texas Legislature. This bill was introduced in the 83rd Texas legislature in 2013, and the 84th legislature in 2015. While neither bill was voted into law, both passed the Senate in both years, with nearly unanimous support in 2015.
What About the 85th Legislature?
Senator Van Taylor filed SB 640 with the Secretary of the Senate on January 27, 2017. It has since been read for the first time in the Senate, and referred to the Senate Education Committee. Rep. James Frank, Rep. Tom Oliverson, and Rep. Jeff Leach jointly authored HB 1323, which was filed on January 27, 2017. The filed versions of SB 640 and HB 1323 are identical.
As currently written, the bill would allow home schooled students to participate in UIL Programs, subject to the same requirements as the public school students in the same program. Further, home schooled students who were enrolled in public school may not participate in UIL Programs during the reminder of the school year in which they were enrolled. This prevents failing students from attempting to game the system and avoid being suspended for failing grades by simply switching to home school instruction.
There are also requirements for the parent to provide report cards indicating that the student is passing each six weeks. The students also must demonstrate grade-level academic proficiency on any nationally recognized, norm-referenced assessment instrument during the first six weeks of a school year. If the failing student discussed above switches to home school instruction, not only will he be prevented from participation for the remainder of the school year, he would have to pass a test before he could participate the next year.
On the other side, this bill would not allow state agencies, governmental bodies, or school districts to regulate or oversee home schools. This bill attempts to be bipartisan and protect both sides.
So, Can He Play?
Currently in Texas, your homeschooled child will not be allowed to participate in the University Interscholastic League (UIL), the entity that governs high school sports competitions. This means he will not be allowed to play for a public school team unless he is enrolled in that school.
There are home school sports associations throughout Texas for which your home schooled children might be eligible. Particularly in the larger cities, home schooled athletes have access to multiple associations which offer not only sports, but also fine arts such as theater, music, and visual art.
What Can I Do?
Since the 85th Texas Legislative Session is this year, you can contact your State Senator and Representative. Beyond the home school sports associations, and passing the Tebow law in Texas, you will have to weigh the academic well-being of your son against his potential of becoming a professional in some sport. Nevertheless, there are always the Tim Tebow and Collin Klein athletes in the world.
–Authored by Carrie A. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479