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'Tebow Bills' for Homeschooled Athletes Proposed in Tenn., N.C.

Tennessee's state Senate unanimously approved a bill Monday that would allow homeschooled students to participate in public school sports, and a similar bill was introduced in the North Carolina House on Tuesday.

These so-called "Tebow bills" earn their nickname from former New York Jets and Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who was famously homeschooled as a high schooler in Florida but still played football for a public school team.

The Tennessee bill would allow homeschooled students to play on public school teams so long as the student is being homeschooled by a parent or guardian, expresses his or her interest in athletic participation for the upcoming school year by Aug. 1, and is found to meet the same academic and conduct standards as regular public school student-athletes.

Under the bill, if an organization that regulates interscholastic athletics (such as the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association) adopts rules strictly defining which homeschooled students would be eligible for athletics, schools would also be required to follow such rules. The current TSSAA policy allows districts to decide on their own whether to allow homeschooled students to participate in athletics, so long as the homeschooled students meet the same academic standards as their public school student-athlete counterparts.

This new legislation wouldn't guarantee a homeschooled student-athlete a spot on the team, but would guarantee any eligible homeschooled athlete a chance to at least try out. Any students who were ineligible for interscholastic athletics when they withdrew from public or private school would have to wait at least one grading period to re-establish eligibility before being allowed to participate, however.

After being unanimously passed by the Senate, the bill now moves to the House's education committee. Matthew Gillespie, TSSAA's assistant executive director, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that the organization "oppose[s] the bill, but more so from a philosophical standpoint."

The North Carolina bill is much earlier along in the legislative process. Like the Tennessee bill, homeschooled student-athletes would be held to the same academic standards as their public school counterparts. The parents of the homeschooled athlete and the school principal would agree on a method of evaluation in all subjects.

The bill will likely be moved to a House subcommittee sometime this week.

Earlier this year, remember, the Virginia Senate quashed the state's Tebow bill on an 8-7 vote for the second straight year.

A majority of states have some form of law governing what public school activities homeschooled students are allowed to take part in, according to a November 2012 brief from the Home School Legal Defense Association.

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