Homeschooled student-athletes in New Jersey can now participate in public high school sports, under rule changes approved Wednesday by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Any homeschooled students interested in playing public school sports will need to prove to their local board of education that they meet the same eligibility standards as a typical public school student-athlete—age, residency, and academics.
"These ground-breaking polices related to home schooling and school choice will help ensure that there's no uncertainty about what is and isn't permissible," said Steve Timko, executive director of the NJSIAA, in a statement. "The fact that there had previously existed a kind of 'gray' area on both of these subjects led to quite a bit of uncertainty and confusion. Now, we've remedied that situation."
New Jersey isn't the first state to allow homeschooled students access to public school sports. More than 20 other states have laws governing what public school activities homeschooled students have access to, according to a brief from the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Timko said that the decision was "in the best interests of all our student athletes."
The state Department of Education already allowed homeschooled students to participate in extracurricular activities at public high schools, according to The Press of Atlantic City, so the move by NJSIAA aligns themselves with that policy.
"We need to comply with state law," Timko said to the paper, "and at the same time provide some guidance to the membership."
He also said that when he's attending meetings for high school sports associations on a national level, people say allowing homeschooled athletes to participate in public school sports "is not as big a deal as you might think it would be."
The new policy begins to take effect for the upcoming winter sports season.
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