CLEVELAND, Tenn.—The Bradley County school board decided Thursday to not change its policy that prevents home-schooled students from trying out for the county's public school athletic teams.
Board member Vicki Beaty made the motion that the board change its policy and allow independent home-schooled students who are registered with the county school system and meet Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association requirements to play in county secondary school athletics.
Beaty's motion was that the change be for one year. Then, she said, the board could evaluate whether to reject or keep the policy change.
The change would have affected only independent home-schooled students and would not have applied to those affiliated with home-school associations.
The motion, seconded by David Kelley and supported by Charlie Rose, failed on a 4-3 vote.
The issue came before the board in a Tuesday work session when one parent asked that his home-schooled son be allowed to play football at Walker Valley High School.
"I believe this is a win-win and not a compromise," Kelley said. "A compromise is when you give up something near and dear to your heart for something."
Kelley said he understands the state may pass a law next year allowing home schooling participation statewide.
On Tuesday board member Christy Critchfield said her concern is accountability by the school that could lead to punishment of an entire team.
"I have a problem changing board policy for one year for one child," Critchfield said Thursday.
Rose said he wrestled with the issue until, like Beaty, he talked with TSSAA. Rose said he understands that if parents and students pass along false information that local teams will not be penalized.
"I have not changed my opinion," said Walker Valley Principal Danny Coggin.
He and the county's three other secondary principals voiced opposition Tuesday.
"We can't make this happen in two days," he said. "I can't sign a form to TSSAA that puts other students in jeopardy if I don't know everything."
Board Chairman Troy Weathers urged the board to support its administrators.
"When you start it, it's here to stay," Weathers told board members.
The board is elected to take care of its 10,098 students that started the year in county schools, he said.
After talking to local legislators, Weathers said he was told there is no push in Nashville for a law allowing home-schooled students to be public school athletes.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...