Legislative Update

Sports Access Hearing Report 




Yvonne Bunn and Delegate Rob Bell listen to sports access testimony.
A second special subcommittee hearing on sports access was called to order on Tuesday, October 4, by House Education Chairman Delegate Bob Tata of Virginia Beach. The discussion surrounded HB 2395, a bill introduced during the 2011 session by Delegate Rob Bell of Charlottesville.

The first Special Subcommittee meeting focused on other states and how they incorporate--or do not incorporate--homeschool students in extracurricular programs. A large gathering of homeschoolers showed strong support at the first hearing and some testified for the bill. The purpose of the second hearing was to review possible sports access options. Also, at the chairman's request, the Department of Education had prepared a comparison of public school and homeschool requirements.

Because of the narrow focus of the discussion, Delegate Bell guided the presentation. Scott Woodruff of Homeschool Legal Defense Association gave expert testimony and answered questions concerning sports access in other states. HEAV, VaHomeschoolers, and homeschool parents and students also attended the two-hour hearing.

Please see below for a full report on the hearing.  

With warm regards, 
Yvonne Bunn, Homeschool Support
Yvonne Bunn
Director of Homeschool Support & Legislative Affairs

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1. Possible Sports Access Options
Legislative Services summarized the following options for discussion based on the previous special subcommittee hearing:
  • The Virginia High School League could choose to amend its rules to allow homeschool students to participate under parameters it develops.
  • The subcommittee could recommend legislation requiring schools to allow homeschooler participation, provided they meet some version of "take five, pass five." This could include proof of grades in correspondence courses or online programs.
  • The subcommittee could recommend legislation requiring schools to allow all homeschool students to participate as long as they are meeting existing requirements for home instruction. Some protections against abuse would be added.
  • The subcommittee could recommend legislation allowing homeschoolers to participate at the discretion of the local school division or school principal provided specific requirements for consistency are met.
2. Homeschool and Public School Comparisons 
Following a presentation of the possible options, Michelle Vucci, director of policy for the Department of Education, presented a thorough comparison of homeschool and public school requirements. This resulted in a lengthy discussion about the homeschool law and graduation requirements, including questions about homeschool diplomas. Questions were also raised concerning public school requirements: Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, standard and verified credits, diplomas, and graduation requirements.
Scott Woodruff of HSLDA testifies.

3. Policy Considerations from Other States
Home School Legal Defense attorney Scott Woodruff stated that HSLDA was "not for or against" sports access. He was there to share legal information about other states' laws. He addressed the diploma issue by clarifying the purpose of a diploma, then stated that only the parent who taught or oversaw the curriculum or the person administering a correspondence course was qualified to sign a diploma indicating the student had completed the homeschool course of study.

4. Presentation by Delegate Bell
Delegate Rob Bell of Charlottesville advocates for sports access.
Delegate Bell asked for clarification regarding a statement made during the Department of Education's (DOE) presentation. Reference was made to the fact that public school students DO NOT have to pass the SOL tests to play sports. The DOE and the Virginia High School League (VHSL) both confirmed this was true. Athletes are not required to have verified credits (credits received by passing SOL tests) to participate in sports. This means that homeschoolers, who are required to take a standardized achievement test or have an evaluation each year, may already take more tests than some athletes!

Delegate Bell argued that because annual testing is already in place, is overseen by local superintendents, and has satisfied the laws of Virginia for more than 25 years, no other requirements should be implemented for homeschoolers who want to try out for sports teams.

The take "five/pass five" question was raised again by a committee member. Bell conceded that another option would be for parents to certify that their student was taking and passing five courses.

Ken Tilley of the Virginia High School League (VHSL) speaks in opposition to the bill.
5. Public Comment
Ken Tilley of the Virginia High School League again stated that their membership supports the regulations now in place. He clarified that although the VHSL doesn't require SOL testing, "about 12 local high schools require higher standards and grade point averages" (out of 134 high schools).

Representatives of the Virginia Superintendent's Association, the Virginia School Board Association, the Virginia Education Association (teacher's union), and an adamant public school principal offered testimony opposing sports access for homeschoolers. The principal stated several times that these were "sacred spots" on her school's teams, and they should be reserved only for public school students, especially those who were struggling and needed to be motivated by participating in sports. She feared homeschoolers would take these slots away from at-risk students who needed to remain in school.


Back Row: Delegates Tata, Rust, and Greason listen to testimony.
Front Row: LIS staff attorneys.

Delegate Thomas Greason (R-Loudoun) quickly commented that he represented ALL students in his district, not just public school students. Homeschoolers should have the same benefits and opportunities that public school students have.


Several homeschool parents testified how lack of sports access has created hardships for their families--no competitive teams after middle school and no opportunities for athletic scholarships.


6. Committee Action

The subcommittee did not take any action on HB 2395. Delegate Tata will schedule a final subcommittee hearing in November. At that time, the subcommittee will make its recommendations for the 2012 General Assembly session.


HEAV's Position

Home Educators Association of Virginia is neutral on sports access legislation. HEAV's purpose is to protect and strengthen home education. Although we understand the interest some parents have in providing athletic opportunities for their children, it is not HEAV's purpose to actively support a return to public schools.  


During the past 10 years, HEAV has worked privately with the Virginia High School League in an attempt to come to an equitable agreement rather than risk bringing a discussion of home education before the Virginia legislature. During this time, we have carefully tracked several sports access bills introduced by legislators who were responding to requests from homeschooling parents in their districts. 


We will continue to closely monitor access legislation by attending committee meetings and sharing developments with homeschooling families. We are working closely with Delegate Bell, who is a longtime friend of homeschoolers. If we see any legislative discussion or movement toward increased regulations for homeschoolers in general, we will immediately ask that the bill be withdrawn. 


HEAV will continue to work with our lawmakers and the Department of Education to maintain your freedom to homeschool in the least restrictive manner possible.

Home Educators Association of Virginia

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