Alumni Group to Louisiana: Sex Offenders Shouldn’t Homeschool

For Immediate Release: Homeschooled children should have the same protections against abuse as children who attend traditional schools

Canton, Ma., 02/23/2019—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, wholeheartedly supports Louisiana House Bill 5, introduced by Rep. Stephen Dwight on January 28th. HB 5 would prevent a registered sex offender from volunteering for or being employed by a home study program; and from being present in a home or other facility used for a home study program during the time when the home study program is being conducted.

“Children who are being educated at home need protections against sexual abuse,” said Coleman. “We are aware of numerous cases where registered sex offenders have used homeschooling to isolate their children, rendering them especially vulnerable to their abuse,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “In other cases, registered sex offenders have served as homeschool tutors and abused the children in their care.”

Louisiana law already bars registered sex offenders from serving as instructors or being present at a facility where a non-public school is being conducted (see R.S. 14:19.2 and R.S. 17:15). Because Louisiana allows children to be educated at home under either the state’s home study statute or the state’s non-public school law, these provisions apply to some but not all homeschooled children. HB 5 would close this gap. CRHE urges lawmakers to include protections from sexual and other forms of abuse in state homeschool statutes.

“Children who attend school have regular contact with mandatory reporters,” said Coleman. “This is not the case for homeschooled students. A growing body of research points to abusive parents’ use of homeschooling to isolate children and hide abuse.” In 2014, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin found that 47% of the school-age child torture victims she studied were removed from school to be homeschooled; in 2018, a state official in Connecticut found that 36% of children removed from school to be homeschooled lived in families that were subject to at least one prior child abuse or neglect report.

“We applaud Rep. Dwight for introducing HB 5, and urge lawmakers to support it,” said Coleman. “HB 5 is a step forward for Louisiana’s homeschooled children.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Alumni Group to AR: Address Homeschool Educational Neglect

For Immediate Release: Revisions to Arkansas’ educational neglect statute should include protections for homeschooled students

Canton, Ma., 02/21/2019—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, is expressing concern about Senate Bill 250, which would more narrowly define the circumstances under which educational neglect may be reported. A House Judiciary Committee hearing on SB 250 is scheduled for today at 10am. SB 250 would limit the Child Abuse Hotline to accepting only reports that include allegations that a parent failed to enroll the child in school or “lawfully home-school the child.”

“Arkansas’ homeschool statute has no subject requirements, no instruction time requirements, and no assessment requirements,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “As a result, under the current law a parent can educationally neglect a child while ‘lawfully’ homeschooling. Homeschooling parents are not legally required to educate their children.” Coleman worries that SB 250 would further hinder the Division of Children and Family Services’ ability to intervene in such cases. “Lawmakers should bring the state’s homeschool law more in line with that of other states by creating subject requirements,” says Coleman.

While many home educated students receive an excellent education, this is not always the case. “We have spoken with homeschool alumni across the country who were educationally neglected as children” said Coleman. “The effects of educational neglect can last well into adulthood.” According to research by CRHE, there is reason to believe that homeschooled children under-attend college relative to other children. Coleman also raises concern about parents who take advantage of lax homeschool laws to hide other forms of maltreatment.

“A growing body of research has shed light on the extent to which abusive parents are using the homeschool law to isolate and mistreat their children without detection,” said Coleman. In 2014, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin found that 47% of the school-age child torture victims she studied were removed from school to be homeschooled; in 2018, a state official in Connecticut found that 36% of children removed from school to be homeschooled lived in families that were subject to at least one prior child abuse or neglect report. In many cases, parents who homeschool to conceal abuse also do not educate their children.

“This is not the time to curtail the Division of Children and Family Services’ ability to reach homeschooled children who are being educationally neglected,” said Coleman. “In the absence of any requirements outlining what it means to ‘lawfully’ homeschool a child, we worry that SB 250 would do more harm than good.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Alumni Group Urge SC to Support Homeschoolers

For Immediate Release: District-run policies in Alaska and Iowa serve as models for publicly funded homeschool support

Canton, Ma., 2/14/2019—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children, is urging South Carolina lawmakers to view select homeschool support programs in other states as models for state support for homeschooled students. South Carolina lawmakers are considering S. 131 and H. 3202, which would provide curriculum grants funded by tax credits. “We recommend programs that offer students and parents more holistic support while also ensuring autonomy,” said Coleman. “Alaska’s district-run homeschool programs and Iowa’s Home School Assistance Programs are excellent examples of such support, and should be emulated.”

In Alaska, school districts run programs that enroll homeschooled children. Districts receive 90% of the students’ per-pupil allowance from the state; parents receive $2,000 per child in reimbursements for education expenses, and are assigned a teacher who helps answer questions and support students’ progress. Many of these programs also offer homeschool resource centers, where students can take enrichment classes. Iowa’s district-run programs operate similarly—they receive state funding, offer homeschooling parents access to homeschool resource centers, and grant homeschooled children access to public school programs, classes, and support services. Homeschooled students with disabilities have access to district resources; districts receive funding for the services they provide.

“When monetary support is provided directly to homeschooling families, it is imperative that expenditures be accounted for,” Coleman added. “We urge lawmakers to ensure that the scholarship program created by S. 131 and H. 3202 include steps to ensure funds are spent on appropriate expenses.” In Alaska, there are strict guidelines surrounding what expenses can and cannot be reimbursed. Lawmakers in some states have become concerned about abuse of other forms of direct-aid, such as adoption subsidies, which can incentivize parents to adopt older children or children with disabilities in order to receive the money.

“Unfortunately, not all parents have their children’s best interests at heart. Some parents use homeschooling to cover up parental neglect or avoid mandatory reporters,” said Coleman. “Monetary support provided directly to homeschoolers should be offered as reimbursement for approved educational expenses only.” According to CRHE, direct monetary support works best when it is part of a more comprehensive program, like those in Alaska, which maintain relationships with homeschooling families and provide long term accountability.

“Funding for homeschooling should come with basic academic accountability,” said Coleman. Most homeschooling families in South Carolina choose to homeschool through a homeschool association, which allows them to opt out of testing and other forms of accountability. In states like Alaska and Iowa, parents voluntarily opt in to programs that offer basic accountability while also providing parents with financial support and other resources. “Lawmakers should strive to create policies that provide homeschooled students with holistic forms of support.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Alumni Group Urges IL to Protect Homeschooled Students

For Immediate Release: Homeschooled children need access to mandatory reporters

Canton, Ma., 02/19/2019—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, applauds the intentions behind Illinois House Bill 3560, a bill designed to prevent parents from using homeschooling to isolate and abuse children.

“The risk homeschooling poses for enabling families with a history of abuse or neglect to harm their children is becoming more widely recognized,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “We gratefully appreciate the intent behind the measure, and strongly recommend several amendments to HB 3560 to prevent abuse of the statute.”

“A growing body of research suggests that homeschooling offers abusive parents a way to isolate and mistreat their children without detection,” Coleman said. In 2014, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin found that 47% of the school-age child torture victims she studied were removed from school to be homeschooled; in 2018, a state official in Connecticut found that 36% of children removed from school to be homeschooled lived in families that were subject to at least one prior child abuse or neglect report.

Illinois is no stranger to such cases. In 2013, six-year-old Alysha Quate of Belleville was choked to death by her abusive father; her death was not discovered until four years later. In 2014, 11-year-old Raashanai Coley was starved and beaten to death in Waukegan. In 2017, 6-year-old Liam Roberts of Jerseyville was starved to death by his parents. In all three of these cases, parents used homeschooling to the isolate children and hide their abuse.  

Coleman says HB 3560, which would require home visits, would place undue burden on DCFS. Coleman argues that there are more effective ways to ensure that homeschooled children are safe: “Requiring parents to have their children assessed by certified teachers once a year and mandating certain medical visits would put children in front of mandatory reporters in contexts that focus on child wellbeing without imputing suspicion,” she says. Coleman also suggested copying the approach in a 2015 bill in Michigan, which would have required homeschooled students to have two documented contacts with mandatory reporters—which include doctors, teachers, dentists, and pastors—each year.

“We recommend creating requirements that mirror the practices responsible homeschooling parents already routinely use,” said Coleman. She mentions doctor visits as one example. In Pennsylvania, children who are homeschooled are required to have medical visits during certain grades. Because responsible parents take their children to the doctor, this does not pose an additional burden on parents doing homeschooling well. New York State requires homeschooled children to have an portfolio of their work reviewed by a certified teacher or other qualified individual; many homeschooling parents appreciate this sort of feedback. Both provisions put children in front of mandatory reporters, which Coleman says can help identify situations where parents are using the homeschool law to hide abuse or neglect.

“Under current statute, the state of Illinois does nothing to ensure that children homeschooled in at-risk situations have access to safe adults” said Coleman. “This needs to change.” In addition to ensuring that students have access to mandatory reporters, Coleman also recommends creating background checks to identify cases where children are removed from school to be homeschooled after concerning histories of abuse or neglect allegations.

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Alumni Group to IA Lawmakers: Protect Homeschooled Students

For Immediate Release: Homeschooled children need access to mandatory reporters

Canton, Ma., 02/19/2019—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, applauds Rep. Mary Mascher’s work on behalf of homeschooled children. Rep. Mascher has introduced House File 272, designed to eliminate situations where parents use homeschooling to isolate and abuse children, and House File 182, which would restore the state’s academic protections for homeschoolers. [Note: Rep. Mascher also introduced House File 100, which is virtually identical to HF 272.]

“The risk homeschooling poses for enabling families with a history of abuse or neglect to harm their children is becoming more widely recognized,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “We gratefully appreciate the intent behind the measure, and strongly recommend several amendments to HF 272 to prevent abuse of the statute.”

“A growing body of research suggests that homeschooling offers abusive parents a way to isolate and mistreat their children without detection,” Coleman said. In 2014, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin found that 47% of the school-age child torture victims she studied were removed from school to be homeschooled; in 2018, a state official in Connecticut found that 36% of children removed from school to be homeschooled lived in families that were subject to at least one prior child abuse or neglect report.

Iowa is no stranger to such cases. In recent years, the state has been rocked by a series of high-profile child abuse deaths where homeschooling was directly involved. 16-year-old Natalie Finn starved to death in October 2016; 18-year-old Malayia Knapp went public with her own history of abuse; and body of 16-year-old Sabrina Ray was discovered in her parents’ basement. All three were homeschooled.

Coleman says HF 272, which would require school districts to conduct quarterly home visits for the state’s estimated 17,500 homeschooled students would place undue burden on school districts. Coleman argues that there are more effective ways to ensure that homeschooled children are safe: “Requiring parents to have their children assessed by certified teachers once a year and mandating certain medical visits, would put children in front of mandatory reporters in contexts that focus on child wellbeing without imputing suspicion,” she says. Coleman also suggested copying the approach in a 2015 bill in Michigan, which would have required homeschooled students to have two documented contacts with mandatory reporters—which include doctors, teachers, dentists, and pastors—each year.

“We recommend creating requirements that mirror the practices responsible homeschooling parents already routinely use,” said Coleman. She mentions doctor visits as one example. In Pennsylvania, children who are homeschooled are required to have medical visits during certain grades. Because responsible parents take their children to the doctor, this does not pose an additional burden on parents doing homeschooling well. New York State requires homeschooled children to have an portfolio of their work reviewed by a certified teacher or other qualified individual; many homeschooling parents appreciate this sort of feedback. Both provisions put children in front of mandatory reporters, which Coleman says can help identify situations where parents are using the homeschool law to hide abuse or neglect.

“Under current statute, the state of Iowa does nothing to ensure that children homeschooled in at-risk situations have access to safe adults” said Coleman. “This needs to change.” In addition to ensuring that students have access to mandatory reporters, Coleman also recommends creating background checks to identify cases where children are removed from school to be homeschooled after concerning histories of abuse or neglect allegations.

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Alumni Group to OR Lawmakers: Don’t Forget Homeschoolers

For Immediate Release: Homeschooled Students Should Not Be Left Out of State Vaccination Requirements

Canton, Ma., 02/19/19—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, is urging Oregon lawmakers to include homeschooled children in any change to the state’s vaccination requirements. Rep. Mitch Greenlick is in the process of drafting a bill to eliminate non-medical exemptions for vaccinations, requiring all Oregon students to be vaccinated. However, this change would not apply to children who are homeschooled. [Note: On 02/25, Rep. Greenlick introduced House Bill 3063.]

“It is shortsighted to exempt homeschooled children from medical requirements designed to protect children’s health,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “We applaud Rep. Greenlick’s efforts to protect public health,” said Coleman. “We urge him not to overlook homeschooled students in this discussion.”

The vast majority of Oregon’s homeschooled children interact freely with children in their neighborhoods and in the community at large. When unvaccinated homeschooled children cluster together, there is increased risk of an outbreak. Over the past decade, numerous outbreaks of measles and whooping cough have taken place in homeschool communities with low rates of vaccination.

Oregon has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country; a measles outbreak in nearby Washington has lawmakers concerned about similar situations occurring in Oregon. Rep. Greenlick’s bill harkens back to a bill passed in California in 2015, which made vaccinations a requirement for public school attendance. Since this regulatory change, California’s vaccination rate has risen significantly.  

“Creating a system where parents can use homeschooling to evade medical requirements, rather than homeschooling because they believe homeschooling promotes their children’s educational or social well-being, does these children a disservice,” said Coleman. “Homeschooling is a serious commitment.”

In California, the vaccination rate in public charter schools is significantly lower than other publicly funded schools, due to the number of parents who have opted to homeschool unvaccinated children and enrolled them in public charter schools that offer “independent study” programs.

Claudia Weintraub, the director of River Oaks Academy, says that many parents who call her to enroll a child say that their children are not fully immunized and cannot go to a traditional school. “You don’t really want to homeschool your kid,” Weintraub says she tells these parents. “You’re telling me you’re working all day, so how are you going to homeschool?”

“We cannot afford to leave homeschooled children out of the discussions about vaccinations and public health,” said Coleman. “Homeschooled children are as much a part of our communities as other children.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Alumni Group to MT Lawmakers: Stand Up for Homeschooled Kids

For Immediate Release: Removing the state’s homeschool requirements would legalize educational neglect

Canton, Ma., 02/19/19—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, is urging Montana State House Education Committee Members to oppose House Bill 303, which would remove the state’s homeschool requirements and eliminate districts’ ability to enforce the state’s compulsory attendance statute for all students.

“We’ve seen this kind of language introduced to legislative bodies before,” said Eve Ettinger, policy analyst and board member with CRHE. “It’s a carte blanche for parents to remove their children from school and then fail to educate them.” While many parents who homeschool do provide their children with an excellent education, this is not always the case. CRHE is aware of numerous cases in Montana and elsewhere where children were homeschooled but not educated; there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that children who are homeschooled are less likely to obtain higher education.

Currently, parents who homeschool in Montana are required to notify the school district each year and to provide a set number of hours of instruction in the same range of academic subjects covered in public schools. HB 303 would remove these requirements, legalizing educational neglect and leaving Montana’s homeschooled children without any right to even the most basic education.

HB 303 wouldn’t just legalize educational neglect. By removing the current requirement that homeschooling parents notify their school district each year, HB 303 would also make it easier for abusive parents to use homeschooling to hide maltreatment.

“When even the most minimal requirements are stripped away, homeschool statutes become especially open to abuse,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. In 2014, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin found that 47% of the school-age child torture victims she studied were removed from school to be homeschooled; in 2018, a state official in Connecticut found that 36% of children removed from school to be homeschooled lived in families that were subject to at least one prior child abuse or neglect report. “Parents fleeing suspicions of child abuse or neglect already use Montana’s comparatively lax homeschool laws to hide from accountability,” said Ettinger. “Decreasing accountability for Montana’s homeschooling parents would only exacerbate this situation.”

“Eliminating compulsory attendance and providing tax incentives for parents who do not enroll their children in public school–which Rep. DeVries is promoting in a parallel bill–is a massive mistake,” says Ettinger. “Homeschooled children deserve safeguards that ensure that they are receiving academic resources and an education without parents neglecting their health or academic growth.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Alumni Group Urges IA Lawmakers to Restore Previous Homeschool Law

For Immediate Release: A spate of child deaths have pointed to the need for restoring Iowa’s homeschool law to its pre-2013 form

Canton, Ma., 02/14/2019—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) applauds Iowa state representative Mary Mascher’s introduction of House Bill 182. “Before 2013, Iowa had one of the best laws in the country for protecting homeschooled children,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “Rep. Mascher’s bill would restore accountability to the state’s homeschool statute.” CRHE is a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children.

“Over the past three years, Iowa has seen a series of high profile deaths among children who were homeschooled,” said Coleman. “These tragedies point to the need to restore Iowa’s previous homeschool law, which required students to have annual assessments and gave them access to mandatory reporters.” The child deaths include 16-year-old Natalie Finn, who starved to death in October 2016. After Natalie’s death, Malayia Knapp went public with her own history of abuse; Malayia ran away from her abusive parents in 2015. Next, in May 2017, the body of 16-year-old Sabrina Ray was discovered in her parents’ basement. All three girls were homeschooled.

“A growing body of research suggests that homeschooling offers abusive parents a way to isolate and mistreat their children without detection,” Coleman said. In 2014, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin found that 47% of the school-age child torture victims she studied were removed from school to be homeschooled; in 2018, a state official in Connecticut found that 36% of children removed from school to be homeschooled lived in families that were subject to at least one prior child abuse or neglect report.

Before 2013, Iowa did more to protect the interests of homeschooled children than nearly any other state. The state’s “competent private instruction” statute allowed parents to choose between a) homeschooling with the support of a certified teacher or b) having their children’s academic progress assessed annually by standardized test or portfolio review. This made Iowa’s homeschooling law one of most effective the country at protecting homeschooled children, offering both homeschooled students and homeschooling parents the support they needed to thrive. In 2005, the state’s robust level of homeschool oversight enabled 11-year-old Sarah Neely to escape from her father’s abuse.

In 2013, an amendment to an education funding bill gutted the state’s homeschool law by adding an “independent private instruction” option that had no educational requirements. After 2013, parents could homeschool without providing notice to their local school districts, and without any form of required assessment. And it was after 2013 that Natalie Finn and Sabrina Ray died at their parents’ hands. “When a state fails to provide protections for homeschooled students, it is the children who suffer,” said Coleman. “HB 182 offers an opportunity for Iowa lawmakers to fix the mistake they made in 2013, and restore the state’s previous law.”

“Under current statute, the state of Iowa does nothing to ensure that homeschooled children receive an education, or to ensure that children homeschooled in at-risk situations have access to safe adults” said Coleman. “By passing House File 2014, Iowa lawmakers have the opportunity to restore their state’s record of protecting the needs of homeschooled children.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Alumni Group to WV: ESAs Are Not the Best Way to Support Homeschooled Students

For Immediate Release: District-run policies in Alaska and Iowa serve as models for publicly funded homeschool support

Canton, Ma., 2/14/2019—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children, is urging West Virginia lawmakers to take a more holistic approach to supporting the state’s homeschooled children than that currently included in discussions surrounding the omnibus education spending bill. “Creating Education Savings Accounts for a limited number of new homeschooled students would not provide the vast majority of the state’s homeschooled students with the sort of meaningful support their families need,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, CRHE’s executive director, referencing one proposal included in some versions of the bill. “West Virginia lawmakers could better support all homeschooled students by granting these students access to public school athletics, services for students with disabilities, or other public school programs which which are currently off limits to most homeschoolers.”

“Good homeschool policy considers the needs of all homeschooled children, not a select few,” said Coleman. Some versions of Senate Bill 541 have proposed to create up to 2,500 Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) for children currently in public school who are subsequently withdrawn and enrolled in a private school or homeschooled. Families with household incomes less than $150,000 would be eligible. These accounts would receive 75% of students’ per-pupil state aid, or around $3,000. There are currently 10,000 students being homeschooled in West Virginia; these students would not be eligible for an ESA.

“There are better ways for states to support homeschooled students than ESAs,” said Coleman. “The best programs bring resources to both homeschooled students and the districts that support them. Alaska’s district-run homeschool programs and Iowa’s Home School Assistance Programs are excellent examples, and should be emulated.”

In Alaska, school districts run programs that enroll homeschooled children. Districts receive 90% of the students’ per-pupil allowance from the state; parents receive $2,000 per child in reimbursements for education expenses, and are assigned a teacher who helps answer questions and support students’ progress. Many of these programs also offer homeschool resource centers, where students can take enrichment classes. Iowa’s district-run programs operate similarly—they receive state funding, offer homeschooling parents access to homeschool resource centers, and grant homeschooled children access to public school programs, classes, and support services. Homeschooled students with disabilities have access to district resources; districts receive funding for the services they provide.

“When states do provide public funding directly for homeschooled students, as is proposed in some versions of SB 451, it is imperative that the expenditures be accounted for,” Coleman added. In Alaska, there are strict guidelines surrounding what expenses can and cannot be reimbursed. Lawmakers in some states have become concerned about abuse of other forms of direct-aid, such as adoption subsidies, which can incentivize parents to adopt older children or children with disabilities in order to receive the money. “Unfortunately, not all parents have their children’s best interests at heart. Some parents may homeschool to hide drug problems, cover up parental neglect, or avoid mandatory reporters,” said Coleman. “Providing funding without accountability could encourage parents to choose homeschooling for a financial payout, without considering their children’s best interests. If lawmakers include ESAs in teh final version of SB 451, they must take steps to prevent the system from being abused.”

“We are pleased to see West Virginia lawmakers thinking about the needs of the state’s homeschooled students,” Coleman said. “We urge them to include provisions that benefit all of the state’s homeschooled students, while also supporting school districts.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Alumni Group Calls on TX Lawmakers to Grant Homeschoolers Sports Access

For Immediate Release: Everyone wins when homeschooled students are allowed to play on public school sports teams

Canton, Ma., 02/13/2019—On February 4th, Rep. James Frank introduced House Bill 1324 into the Texas state legislature. This bill would outline standards for homeschooled students’ participation in public school athletics. High school athletics programs in public schools are governed by the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which currently requires participants to be full time students at the schools they represent, barring homeschoolers. HB 1324 would force the UIL to change its eligibility criteria. “We urge lawmakers to support HB 1324,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children. “It is well-documented that access to public school athletics programs benefits homeschooled students without creating problems for either public schools or other students.”

While critics allege that allowing homeschooled students to participate in public school athletics programs takes opportunities away from other students, the evidence for this is sparse. “In a 2012 survey, state athletic associations that allow homeschooled students to compete on public school teams reported that this policy had not created problems for them,” said Coleman. “Further, research suggests that homeschooled students tend to gravitate toward activities without a limit on participants, such as cross country running or tennis.”

HB 1324 also contains provisions designed to prevent abuse of the system, barring homeschooled students from participating during the remainder of any school year in which they were previously enrolled in school and requiring homeschooled participants to achieve an average or above average score on a standardized test.

In 2016, CRHE conducted a survey of 150 homeschool graduates’ athletics experiences and found that participants overwhelmingly believed that athletic participation was beneficial to homeschooled students (87%) and that public school athletics should be made available to homeschooled students (80%). Many participants noted that community athletics programs were often limited: “Once I reached junior high age there were no longer any community sports available,” wrote one participant; another noted that public school athletics programs “are very often the only access for students like myself who grew up in underprivileged areas.”

Survey respondents who were homeschooled in Texas overwhelmingly supported granting homeschooled students access to public school athletics programs. “Many homeschool students are athletically/physically underdeveloped because they do not have access to such programs,” Bea wrote of her experience. Without access to public school athletics, Dan wrote, “homeschoolers are left with few, often expensive options to participate in organized sports.” Faith noted that participation in public school athletics can expose homeschooled students “to others outside their own social group and to mandatory reporters.”

Currently, 30 states grant homeschooled students access to public school athletics programs, putting Texas in the minority. “Granting homeschooled children access to public school athletics improves homeschool outcomes,” said Coleman. “We urge Texas lawmakers to support the state’s homeschooled students by supporting HB 1324.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.