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States Advance Bills Allowing Home-Schooled Students in School Sports

With state legislatures in full swing, the issue of allowing home-schooled students to participate in public school sports has sprung up in multiple states this year. It's time to add both Missouri and Kansas to that list.

On Feb. 26, the Kansas Senate voted 30-9 in favor of a bill that would allow students who reside in a district to participate in public school sports and other extracurricular activities, even if they don't attend a public school in the district full time. If the bill gets signed into law, home-schooled students would be required to pay any required participation fees, and those prohibited from participation "for any other reason other than attendance" would still not be allowed to join a sports team.

Gary Musselman, the executive director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, voiced his organization's disapproval of the bill to Suzanne Perez Tobias of The Wichita Eagle in early February.

"Eligibility is a status that is earned through a student's work in school ... and those schools are held to very strict standards that member schools are held accountable to," Musselman said. "What we're talking about here is a totally different model."

At schools belonging to the state athletics association, students must be passing at least five classes each semester to be eligible for sports participation. Musselman's concerns with the bill seem largely tied to its lack of any equivalent requirement for home-schooled students.

The Missouri House committee on elementary and secondary education voted 9-3 in favor of a similar bill on March 3, referring it to the House's select committee on education. The Missouri bill specifically requires "the individual who primarily provides instruction" to a home-schooled student to verify in writing to a school that such student is receiving a passing grade in each subject/course and is "maintaining satisfactory progress towards academic advancement or promotion." Home-schooled students who participate in school activities would be subject to the same policies for any student who attends the public school, including those regarding age, eligibility, fees, insurance, and standards of behavior, among others.

State Rep. Elijah Haahr, who introduced the bill, has been planning such a move for months, as my colleague Arianna Prothero noted last November. In speaking with Kyle Loethen of MissouriNet.com, Haahr, a former home-schooled student himself, explained why he sponsored such legislation.

"What this bill does is bring Missouri in line with the majority of states in the country to allow home-school students to try out for and potentially participate in the athletics for their local public-schools in the district within which they live," said Haahr. "We are not requiring that they participate, we are asking that they be allowed to try out. They would have to compete for the teams just like any other student."

Missouri and Kansas aren't the only two states to tackle this issue in 2015. In late February, the Virginia General Assembly approved a bill that would allow home-schoolers to participate in public school sports, sending it to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for final approval. The governor has until midnight on March 29 to decide whether to sign the bill. The Mississippi Senate, meanwhile, voted against a similar bill, 31-17, in mid-February.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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