For Immediate Release: Public School Athletics Should Be Open to Homeschoolers
Canton, Ma., 3/11/15—Currently, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) requires student athletes to be “regularly enrolled” at the public school they represent, thus barring homeschooled students from participation. Assembly Bill 3678 and Senate Bill 2175 could change this, prohibiting school districts from barring homeschoolers from interscholastic sports and thus requiring the NYSPHSAA to open the door to homeschoolers. “Granting homeschooled students access to public school extracurriculars is one of the most important ways lawmakers can support homeschooled students,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education.
Participation in public school athletics and other extracurriculars has been found to have pronounced benefits for children’s socialization, self-esteem, and leadership skills. A recent study of homeschool alumni found that those who participated in public school athletics rated their homeschooling experience more highly than did other respondents. Further, researcher Joseph Richard Barno found that college admissions officers weighted extracurriculars more heavily for homeschool graduates than for traditionally-schooled graduates, suggesting that extracurricular participation is especially important for homeschooled students who are college-bound. “Excluding homeschooled children from this important aspect of physical and personal development puts them at a profound disadvantage with respect to their peers,” Coleman said.
New York’s Assembly Bill 3678 and Senate Bill 2175 are part of an ongoing trend toward increasing homeschooled students’ access to extracurriculars in their local public schools. Over half of all states provide homeschooled students some form of participation in athletics or other extracurriculars through their local public schools, and that number is growing. Many states also allow homeschooled students to take individual courses at their local public schools. In fact, in 2007, the most recent year for which we have data, 16% of homeschooled students were enrolled in school part time. “Cooperation between homeschoolers and local school districts benefits homeschooled students and creates a positive relationship between schools and families,” said Coleman.
New York homeschoolers, including LEAH, the largest statewide homeschool organization, support Assembly Bill 3678 and Senate Bill 2175. Gina Varrichio, a homeschooling mother, has created a website, Let Homeschoolers Play, and launched a petition to bring the bills to the floor. “The overarching aim of our public school system should be to educate the minds, exercise the bodies, and open the hearts of our children and our communities,” wrote Varrichio. “The goal should be one of supporting as many children as we can in this mission, not the fewest we’re legally allowed.”
While there are often a variety of community athletic leagues available to younger children, these options tend to narrow as children grow older, forcing parents to choose between homeschooling and athletic participation. “Discriminating against homeschooled children based on the educational choices their parents make for them is detrimental to these children’s development and prevents them from accessing the same opportunities as their peers,” said Coleman. “Children of all educational backgrounds should be able to play together.”
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.