Home-schooled students kept out of activities

Friday, July 15, 2011

Home-schooled students will not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities of the Marshall County school system. This was the majority decision of school board members at their Monday night meeting.

The Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association recently ruled that home-schooled students could be allowed to play on school teams, but left each school system to decide the policy for their district.

Ann Tears, chairman of the policy committee, which has been discussing this issue, opened the discussion with the announcement that TSSAA would allow a district to "opt out" of allowing home-schooled athletes to join school teams.

"I move we opt out," said Harvey Jones Jr.

"We're basically saying home-schooled students are not allowed to participate," clarified chairman Mike Keny.

"The principals were very happy" at the prospect of opting out, Tears said.

"Yes," agreed Donnie Moses. "They were very supportive."

Barbara Kennedy was less certain.

"I'm not sure we're really doing the right thing," she said. "I can see both sides. Look at the number of home-schooled students that win national spelling or geography bees." Keny agreed with her, pointing out that that home-school students have the potential to excel at sports, particularly individual ones like tennis and golf, because they have a flexible schedule, and thus more time to practice. He said Williamson County school board members had called this an unfair advantage.

"Is that a bad thing if they can win for us?" asked Kennedy.

"Folks that make the home-school decision must understand there are some consequences," Moses said, asking schools director Roy Dukes for an estimate of the number of home-schooled students in Marshall County.

"It's hard to determine," Dukes answered, though when pressed for a number, he guessed less than 100.

"Any requests to participate in athletics?" Moses asked, and Dukes answered, "No."

The vote was 7-1 to opt out of allowing home-schooled students to participate in athletics and other extracurricular activities of the school system. Kennedy's was the lone dissenting vote. Randy Perryman was absent.

According to the results of a poll of 40 Tennessee school systems, only four have opted in, and seven remain undecided. The other 29 have all opted out, including neighboring counties Bedford, Giles, Lincoln, and Maury.

Other policy committee business reported to the board included the news that committee members have started investigating instituting "Standardized School Attire" for the 2011-2012 school year.

"Principals and administrators are in favor of it," Tears said. "We will continue to study it."

"John Christmas (county commissioner and Lewisburg police officer) is in favor of it from a school safety position," Kennedy reported, adding, "There's strong support for it in the community."

"Bedford, Giles, Lincoln and Maury counties already have standardized school attire," Tears said.