published Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Hamilton County Board of Education revisits home-school athletes policy

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    The entrance to the offices of the Hamilton County Department of Education is seen in this photo taken on April 7, 2009.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Hamilton County Board of Education will reconsider tonight allowing home-schooled students to participate on school athletic teams. But such a change may only affect a small segment of the home-schooled population.

In July, the board followed administrators' recommendation and voted 6-2 to keep home-school students from playing on school teams. The debate was opened up last year when the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association approved a bylaw allowing participation in extracurricular athletics at member schools, pending certain qualifications and the approval of the local school board.

But some home-school families say that regardless of the school board's decision tonight, it won't correct the unfairness in TSSAA's rules, which still keep an estimated 90 percent of home-school students ineligible. And they worry that coaches will begin cherry-picking their best players and draining talent from home-school athletic leagues.

If the board gives its OK tonight, TSSAA will allow home-school students to start playing on the county's middle and high school athletic teams by the winter sports season, said Assistant Superintendent Lee McDade. He said an informal poll last year found little interest among principals in allowing in home-school students. But at the time, he said, they were missing information on the new bylaw and how it would be implemented.

"That was it: yes or no," he said. "As a principal you're going to say no to that."

He said some principals were wary that coaches would start recruiting top home-schooled athletes from across the county onto their teams. But the rule allows students to play only for the public school in the district where they live.

"Once all that was laid out in front of them, they understood and were fine with it," McDade said.

School board Chairman Mike Evatt said he, too, has changed his mind since receiving more information -- and after hearing from several home-school families who want their children to be allowed to play.

Not all allowed in

IF YOU GO

What: Hamilton County Board of Education meeting

When: 5:30 p.m. today

Where: Board chambers at the central office, 3074 Hickory Valley Road

But the new rule might prevent many students from participating, said Jim Steffes, who coaches the cross-country team of the Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Home School Association, which represents more than 1,500 families in the area.

Because TSSAA requires that home-schooled students be registered with the local school district, Steffes said the estimated 90 percent who register through a church-related home school won't be eligible to play.

District registration subjects families to regulations -- such as minimum hours of instruction and teacher qualifications -- that don't apply to a church-related home school.

"For most home-schoolers, it's not worth it," Steffes said. "One of the primary reasons families home-school is because they want the freedom to educate their child the way they see fit."

Matthew Gillespie, TSSAA assistant executive director, said the regulation is in place to ensure that home-school students meet the same academic standards as those from public and private member schools.

"There had to be some academic checks and balances," he said.

It's estimated that more than 80,000 students are taught at home in Tennessee. The number of home-school students registered through Hamilton County was unavailable Wednesday. Sheryl Randolph, the director of the district's division that oversees home schools, did not respond to phone calls and emails Tuesday and Wednesday.

Steffes said he would prefer the athletic association to recognize home-school leagues as member schools, so they could participate in post-season play. Currently, teams such as his can only play in independent post-season tournaments, though they compete against area public and private schools during the regular season. He said the new rule doesn't address the complexity of the state's home-school system.

"I think their actions are only addressing a minute population of home-schoolers," Steffes said. "Whatever the school board does is insignificant. What TSSAA does or doesn't do is very significant."

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about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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bearhunter said...

Home schooler should NOT be allowed to participate in athletics. If the school isn't good enough to educatue you then sport programs should not be for you. playing a sport requires more than putting on a uniform. traditions and team bonding envoles monday to friday throughtout the school. opps home schoolers pay taxes well so do i and anytime my child plays sports the coaches were seeking funds for the team. tax dollars don't pay for sports.

September 15, 2011 at 9:41 a.m.
nowfedup said...

Kind of a slam at the parents who take part in all the school events, PTA etc, and possibly have their kid cut from sports so some none participating family can have kid play. Want to play, attend and disgusting that worry was coaches would troll for best players. Time we put sports behind real world class competitions, and amusing to note lots do not want kids tested for education and compared to others, but get all hot about competitive sports local, regional and nations "championship playoff"s. Anyone note the economically we are getting butts whipped by nations with no play offs or bowl games and coach's not highest paid on campus?

September 15, 2011 at 11:03 a.m.
neylandfan said...

In other words yall are scared of homeschoolers.

September 16, 2011 at 8:53 a.m.
nowfedup said...

ney, none are "scared" of home schooled, that is their choice, but since they do not put in anything to public schools and in fact seems to feel such are second rate, just do not want them to selectively lower standards for what they will participate, kind of like enjoying a meal but never entering kitchen, AKA freeloaders yep to good to attend the schools, but perhaps smell free ride or scholarship money exposure, and their value systems kind of bends as needed, rather atypical of that sort.

School boards will approve as they will do anything for a vote, as they have proven..

September 16, 2011 at 1:14 p.m.
neylandfan said...

Oo some im considerd a freeloader...there will not be alot of homeschoolers joining public school teams because there are already homeschool teams in Chattanooga

September 16, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.
bearhunter said...

neylandfan not scared of home schoolers. just let them stay home and play ring around the roses with their moma.

September 16, 2011 at 11:17 p.m.
neylandfan said...

bearhunter I like how you jump to the conclusion that homeschoolers are to good for public school take a good look at public school system theres nothing good about it...homeschooling lets you learn the way that works best for you so that you understand what your learning about..maybe if you stoped being so narrow minded and do a little research you would understand why parents homeschool

September 17, 2011 at 12:09 a.m.
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