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Appeal Case Allows Band Participation

Bill Hughes -1992

Most home-educated students and their parents tend to march to a different drummer. However, in Wetzel County one homeschooler had better be marching to the same drummer, both in beat and in step, with matching uniform.

Greg Hughes, fifteen-year-old tenth grader, now attends Magnolia High School in New Martinsville, but only for marching band class.

For the past ten years we have been teaching our two children --  Greg, 15, and Clare, 13 --  at home. We have always appreciated the cooperative arrangements we have had with the Wetzel County Board of Education and the school system administrators. This year, in our routine letter of intent, we also requested that Greg be permitted to attend marching band class, since the instructor had already permitted it and Greg had been practicing with the band since mid-summer. We anticipated no problem. And our local board had no problem with it.

However, the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission (SSAC) had a problem with it. According to its rules and regulations, Greg was not eligible for marching band since marching band, as well as all athletics and cheerleading activities, are completely regulated by the SSAC.

The initial SSAC decision was made by the Executive Secretary based on rules which determine enrollment and minimum scholastic requirements. According to his interpretation, no home-educated student would ever be eligible to participate in any activity controlled by the Commission.

Fortunately, they do have an appeal procedure. We requested and were granted a hearing, with only a week to prepare. Our main arguments were:

1.     Greg was enrolled in this class at the high school he would normally attend if he were not homeschooled.

2.     State law allows class participation with board approval, which we had, and marching band class requires extra-curricular participation.

3.     Band class grading requires full participation at all activities --  class, field practice, football games, competitions.

4.     Greg’s CTBS scores were at least equivalent to the ‘passing grade” required of other band members.  

Well, to shorten our story, we won our appeal and Greg was ruled eligible to continue in marching band. He missed participating in only one home football game during the appeal process.

We strengthened our appeal with four pages of detailed arguments, a copy of the WV Code as it applies to homeschooling, Greg’s last three sets of CTBS scores, and supportive letters from Wetzel County. We were able to assemble helpful letters from the Wetzel County Assistant Superintendent, the School Board President, Magnolia High School Principal, the Band Instructor, a band member’s parent, and a letter signed by all the members of the band.

We were told that the SSAC had never had an appeal that requested a ruling on participation by home-educated students in band at the high school level. This ruling set a limited precedent because they can continue to decide this on a case-by-case basis.

Another major issue will be eligibility for sports programs that have more exacting scholastic requirements. Obviously, an effort needs to be made to get some overall guidelines established to facilitate decisions on similar cases in other counties in the future.

If you are interested in more detailed information or need assistance or suggestions in dealing with a similar situation, please feel free to contact us. Bill and Marianne Hughes, HC 61 Box 157, New Martinsville, WV 26155-9796. Phone: 304-386-4692