Parents of home-school students continue to express the desire for their children to be able to participate in school sports and performing arts. These requests regularly come to the NSAA, but the response we provide is seldom acceptable.
We have had many discussions with the NSAA Board of Directors about possible changes in eligibility standards for home-schooled students, including extended discussion at the NSAA Board Retreat last summer and in several monthly Board meetings. I believe that most of the NSAA Board has come to the realization that compromises can be made to the process for home-school students without compromising NSAA eligibility guidelines. the more we have looked at the issue, many of us have come to realize that there are valid reasons to explore opportunities for such students to access NSAA activities.
“I have come a long way in seeing the benefits of an open-minded approach to permitting home-school students to participate in high school sports and activities.” That was the paraphrased comments I received from a school administrator during the recent Girls State Basketball Tournament. It is my hope that more and more school administrators can understand the value of possible bylaw changes that might avail participation opportunities to this grouping of students.
As most school administrators are aware, this year’s NSAA legislative process has included a fresh look at how home-school students might be able to participate in NSAA sports and performing arts.
During my tenure at NSAA, there have been several initiatives proposed to permit home-school students to be able to play basketball, or sing in the school’s choir, or compete in soccer. As one who served 18 years as a school superintendent, I often embraced the NSAA requirement that a student had to be at least a half-time student to be able to participate.
Yet, I’ve come to realize that the vast majority of parents of home-school students choose to home school their children got good and reasoned and closely held beliefs. I have come to realize that the home-school option often cannot be interpreted as an anti-public (or private) school initiative. It has been pointed out that it is not easy to try to teach your own children day in and day out. But many parents take this approach of home schooling for many reason — personal reasons they feel very strongly about.
The legislation that has successfully navigated the NSAA District Meeting process requires the home-school student to be enrolled in an exempt school that is approved as a Rule 13 NDE school, and it requires the student to be currently enrolled in twenty credit hours of schoolwork or four classes during the current semester; albeit under the proposed legislation only ten credit hours of that schoolwork would be required in the member school — rather than all four classes.
Further, in subsequent semesters, when looking back to make sure such students have successfully completed twenty credit hours of schoolwork the immediate preceding semester, at least ten of those twenty credit hours would need to have been earned at the member high school.
LB 58 was introduced this year in the Nebraska Legislature. The original language would have been much less restrictive than the NSAA proposal; however, in working with state senators and legislative aides, the language in the NSAA proposal was permitted to be amended into the version of LB 58 that was heard by the Education Committee. LB 58 still sits in committee, awaiting the results of the NSAA legislation at the April 7 Representative Assembly.
For the NSAA home-school proposal to pass at Representative Assembly, it will require a 3/5 favorable vote, and since it is an eligibility matter, if it passes Representative Assembly, it would require a favorable referendum vote of our member schools. If the legislative proposal is forwarded to the membership for a referendum vote, I would encourage school administrators to seriously consider the proposed changes.
I believe we have been given an opportunity to solve our own issues without interference from the Legislature. I have always held that it is preferable for NSAA issues to remain outside the Capitol walls. I believe this compromise NSAA legislation is an opportunity to provide participation opportunities for more home-school students without unduly compromising NSAA eligibility guidelines.
The NSAA proposal represents a change over what has been required in the past, but I believe it is a good consideration going forward.
I know that there are administrators in our local schools who would prefer that home-school student should have to attend the member school more than the current four classes. I understand. It would be my hope that all school administrators take an extra look at the NSAA legislative proposal to determine whether a change from the current norm might be effective for home-school students while still maintaining the integrity of our activities programs.