RICHMOND – Supporters of home-schooled students playing sports in public schools unleashed their secret weapon at the Virginia Capital on Wednesday – home-schoolers themselves.
Home-schooling advocates and their children gathered in the state Capitol to hear remarks from Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, and Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Lynchburg, the sponsors of legislation commonly called the “Tebow bill.”
Afterward, the home-schoolers and parents signed a large card urging Gov. Terry McAuliffe to sign the legislation into law. The group presented the message to the front gate guard at the Governor’s Mansion.
The legislation is named after star quarterback Tim Tebow, who played football for a public high school in Florida while being home-schooled. The General Assembly has passed two identical bills that would allow home-schooled students in Virginia to participate in interscholastic sports and other programs at their local public school:
- Senate Bill 612, proposed by Garrett, passed the Senate 22-17 on Feb. 2 and then the House 58-40 on Feb. 19. McAuliffe must decide whether to sign, veto or amend the bill by Monday.
- House Bill 131, introduced by Bell. It cleared the House 58-41 on Jan. 27 and the Senate 23-17 on Monday. McAuliffe’s deadline to act on the measure is next Thursday.
The bills would prohibit Virginia public schools from joining interscholastic organizations that ban home-schoolers from participating. This would put pressure on the Virginia High School League to allow home-schooled students. The legislation does not require local school boards to let home-schooled students participate in sports or other activities.
Moreover, the legislation states, “Reasonable fees may be charged to students who receive home instruction to cover the costs of participation in such interscholastic programs, including the costs of additional insurance, uniforms, and equipment.”
Republicans favor the Tebow bill concept while Democrats generally oppose it. McAuliffe vetoed similar legislation last year.
Public school teachers oppose the Tebow bill on grounds that students who do not attend a school should not represent that school on the athletic field. They say there is no way to verify whether home-schoolers have the grades and meet other criteria required of regular school students.
Garrett said home-schoolers in Virginia deserve the right to participate in school activities.
“There are home-schoolers in science labs,” he said. “There are home-schoolers on stages. There are home-schoolers in college credit courses. Why aren’t there home-schoolers on our playing fields?”
Bell added, “For 21 years, we have brought the Tebow bill here to Virginia. There is now only one man who is stopping this from becoming law in Virginia, and that is Gov. McAuliffe.”
The governor has not indicated what action he might take on the legislation. Home-schooling parents like Polly Seymour from Fluvanna said it was important to come and let their voices be heard.
“I have a younger son coming up who is excited about sports,” Seymour said. “I’m hoping that by the time he gets to high school, he’ll be able to play in the public schools. Sports is very important in our family, and opportunities to play disappear as they get older.”
More on the Web
To track or comment on the legislation, visit the Richmond Sunlight website:
The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers has posted its views on the Tebow bill at http://vahomeschoolers.org/protecting-homeschooling/issues/sports-access/
Capital News Service is a student-operated news reporting program sponsored by the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University.
For more Virginia General Assembly coverage, visit the In the Rotunda section.