The West Virginia Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would allow private and homeschool students to play public school sports and participate in other extracurricular activities. Senate Bill 131, known as the Tim Tebow Act, is named after the Heisman trophy winner and professional athlete who fought as a homeschooler for the right to play public school sports.
Members of the Senate voted 24-9 to clear the measure.
The bill defines a “Tebow student” as a student instructed at home, by private tutor or enrolled in a private, parochial, or church school who does not attend a school that is a member of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission. The Commission is the governing body of high school sports, cheerleading, and marching bands in the state.
Under the bill, those students would pay the same activity fees required for public school students as well as be subjected to immunization requirements and code of conduct requirements for behavior. Students would also be required to remain academically eligible based on documentation of a transcript from the previous semester, a portfolio of their work, standardized test scores.
Senate Education Chair Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, said the bill would also require Tebow students to register with the school with the intention of participating in extracurricular activities.
“The intent is not to guarantee a Tebow student trying out for an interscholastic sport or other extracurricular activity will make the team, but just that they have a chance to try out,” Rucker said.
Some Democrats expressed concerns that public school enrollment may drop as a result of Senate Bill 131. Sen. Paul Hardesty, D-Logan, said that some students with “marginal” grade averages may switch to homeschool to still be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities.
“The state board needs to look and see how many people we lose. This bill is going to pass. But if we start seeing those people on the fringes falling out, we need to do something and go back and revisit and try to tighten it up and amend that to make it better,” Hardesty said.
Whether or not to allow homeschool students to play public school sports has been an ongoing conversation across the United States for more than a decade and implementing such laws has proven difficult in many states.
Currently, 22 states allow homeschool students to have some access to participate in public school activities, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Senate Bill 131 now heads to the House of Delegates for consideration.