Sports Access Legislation for Homeschool Students

March 24, 2006 - Two bills, HB 4684 in the House and SB 708 in the Senate, introduced in the Legislature to allow homeschool students to play on public school sports teams, are “dead.” These bills were virtually identical in intention and language. Neither bill was put on the education committees’ agenda, so the full legislature never had a chance to vote on these bills.

These bills were drafted by a group of determined homeschool families with the help of members of WVHEA’s Legislative Committee. Home School Legal Defense Association’s Scott Woodruff was consulted during the drafting process, and he recommended changes that the drafters incorporated into the bill. One of the bill drafters, Randy Skaggs (Greenbrier County), believed that his delegate, House Education Committee Chair Tom Campbell, was supportive of sports access legislation and would work to get the bill passed, so the bill draft was sent to Del. Campbell, who then handed it off to the House Education Committee staff. When the bill finally emerged from Legislative Services, House Education Committee Vice-Chair Larry Williams (D – Preston) – not Tom Campbell – was the bill’s sponsor. Del. Williams submitted the bill “by request”, which is code in the legislature for “I do not support this bill and am only submitting it to pacify a constituent.” (Del. Brady Paxton, [D-Putnam] also sponsored the bill.) Bills submitted “by request” are not put on a committee’s agenda since even their sponsors do not support them.

When it became clear that the House bill would not be considered, Daniel Jones (Mannington) asked his senator, Mike Oliverio (D-2nd District), to sponsor the bill in the Senate. Sen. Oliverio rushed to introduce a Senate version of the bill with the bi-partisan support of eleven sponsors. But despite this strong backing, the bill was not placed on the Senate Education Committee’s agenda.

Families involved in the effort were disheartened by the legislative leadership’s unwillingness to formally consider the bills or the issue. Meanwhile, prompted by calls, emails and letters from homeschool families and others sympathetic to the cause, many delegates and senators expressed support for the issue. At least one delegate believed that the bill would have passed if it had made it to the House floor.

All reports indicate that the usual array of opponents aligned together against the bills – the teachers’ unions, the WV Secondary Schools Activities Commission, the principals’ association, the school boards’ association and the WV Board of Education. That powerful coalition, in addition to election year politics and active opposition from West Virginia Values Coalition lobbyist John Carey, combined to doom the bills.

Mr. Carey said that homeschoolers have opted out of the system and that the sports access bill(s) threatened homeschool freedoms. In a West Virginia Values Coalition newsletter, he wrote, “some [delegates]…did communicate support [for sports access], but also expressed a willingness to create changes in the law that would lead to more regulation of home schooling families.” He continued, “[I]f home schoolers want to become part of the public school system then, [sic] they can expect to see more regulations for all home school families, not just those who want to play sports.” Mr. Carey did not offer any explanation for this statement.

During a meeting with homeschoolers and others about the issue on February 28, the WV Department of Education representatives explained that “membership” in a public school was necessary in order to participate in sports and that sports participation is a privilege, funded by enrollment. House Education Committee Chair Tom Campbell indicated that State Superintendent Paine had expressed a willingness to study the issue of sports access for homeschoolers. Representatives of both statewide homeschool organizations (WVHEA and Christian Home Educators of West Virginia) have been invited to attend a meeting with the state superintendent at the end of March to discuss the sports access issue and other issues of interest to homeschoolers.

If you are interested in helping homeschool students gain access to interscholastic sports, contact Daniel Jones of Mannington.

 

State Supreme Court Reverses Itself — Will Hear Appeal in Jones Case - August, 2004 -- Homeschoolers interested in playing school sports had a bit of a rollercoaster ride as spring turned to summer, courtesy of the West Virginia State Supreme Court. At the end of May, the State Supreme Court unanimously rejected an appeal by the WV Secondary School Activities Commission (SSAC) and the State Board of Education to overturn Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom's decision in the Jones case. Judge Bloom ruled in September 2003 that current regulations prohibiting homeschooler participation in school sports violated State law as well as the state’s Constitution.  Click here to read article.

WV Supreme Court decision in the Jones case appeal (2005)

Justice Starcher’s dissent (2005)

Justice Benjamin’s dissent (2005)

Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Bloom’s decision in the Jones case (2003)

 

State Superintendent interpretation RE: athletes entering school from homeschool situation

 

 

In 1980, WV's Attorney General determined that extracurricular activities are an element of the education process.

 

In 1999 the State Supreme Court of Appeals noted: "all the participants in the educational endeavors of our state are involved in a complementary effort to further the goal that every one of our state's children--whether in parochial, private, public, home-based, or other educational programs--has access to the richest possible menu of educational and developmental experiences.”

 

WVHEA's role in any legislative effort depends on several factors. As a registered (501c-3) nonprofit organization, it is prohibited from using more than a small percentage of its resources in "lobbying." In addition, WVHEA's constitution does not include lobbying the legislature as part of its mission. Rather, its purposes include monitoring the government with respect to home education issues, engaging in non-partisan research and analysis of issues affecting home education, and reviewing and disseminating information vital to home educators. WVHEA and its legislative committee base their activity on these principles and try to assist members who wish to pursue legislative activity as individual citizens.   WVHEA can help by identifying people interested in this issue, helping them network with each other, and sharing our legislative experience with them so that they can accomplish their goals.