Bradley teen wants to play on public-school squad

Bradley teen wants to play on public-school squad

August 5th, 2011 by Randall Higgins in Sports - Preps

David Thompson, 14, stands on the Walker Valley High School football field in Cleveland, Tenn. David, who is home-schooled, has been denied permission to play football with Walker Valley Schools. Last December the TSSAA ruled that home-schooled children are allowed to play in public school athletics.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

POLL: Should home-schooled students be allowed to play public school sports?

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - A Bradley County couple wants their home-schooled son to have a chance to play football at Walker Valley High School.

The Bradley County school board plans to consider the issue during a work session on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. The board's monthly voting session will be Thursday.

Craig Thompson told county commissioners this week that home-school families pay the same county taxes as everyone else and that those taxes support county high schools. He said his 14-year-old son David should have the same opportunity as other Bradley teens to play football with a school team.

"We are not asking to be some protected class," he said.

The Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association ruled in December 2010 that home-schooled students can participate in public high school athletics, Thompson said. But the decision is left to each school district across the state.

"In my mind it's about following the money," Commissioner J. Adam Lowe said. "These people are paying for school facilities, and they just want to play on athletic teams."

Lowe made a motion during an Education Committee meeting Monday to ask the full commission to support the idea. His motion died for lack of a second.

Other commissioners said that only the school board sets policy.

"I just don't think this is the right venue," Commissioner Connie Wilson said. "Board members are elected officials, too."

"We should not try to micro-manage the school board," Commissioner Brian Smith said.

Some commissioners said there could be complications.

Bill Winters, a former principal, asked whether a home-schooled student should be allowed to bump an enrolled student off a team if, for example, only one player slot is open.

Coaches, Thompson said, want the best players. He said home-school families are asking only for the opportunity to compete for slots on teams.

The county school board has the issue on its agenda for its Thursday voting session. And the Cleveland Board of Education may consider the issue of home-schooled students participating in extracurricular activities at its September meeting.