High School Sports

Mark Story: Kentucky should say no to home-schooled students on public-school sports teams

Graves County's Bailey Hawkins (35) and Allen County-Scottsville's Savannah Gregory (13) fight for a loose ball during a KHSAA Girls' Sweet Sixteen girls high school basketball game, Friday, March 13, 2015, at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky. (AP Photo/Daily News, Bac Totrong)
Graves County's Bailey Hawkins (35) and Allen County-Scottsville's Savannah Gregory (13) fight for a loose ball during a KHSAA Girls' Sweet Sixteen girls high school basketball game, Friday, March 13, 2015, at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky. (AP Photo/Daily News, Bac Totrong) AP

For the second-straight year, state Representative Stan Lee has pre-filed a bill in the General Assembly that would allow home-schooled students in Kentucky to play sports for public school teams.

Such legislation failed last year, and also in 2009. This time, however, a publicist for Kentucky Gov.-Elect Matt Bevin said he supports Lee's proposal.

Often referred to as "Tim Tebow bills" after the most famous home-schooled athlete, such laws have been adopted in more than 20 states.

For myriad reasons, Kentucky should not follow suit.

I have no issue with home schooling. Each family has the right to decide for themselves how they want their children educated.

For reasons both philosophic and practical, though, opening up public school sports for students who do not attend public schools is a truly bad idea.

In an interview with the Herald-Leader's Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lee, R-Lexington, cited the most common rationale one hears for allowing home-school students to participate in sports on teams representing schools they do not attend.

"We pay taxes whether we have children in the public school system or not," Lee said.

No argument there. However, no one is preventing the families of home-schooled children from reaping the benefits of the school taxes they pay. Those families are making a choice not to do so by opting out of public education.

That's a perfectly reasonable decision — but if you make it, you should accept the consequences. If you choose not to partake of the green vegetables (meaning the academics) offered by the public schools, you should not expect to show up to eat the cheesecake (meaning extracurricular activities).

How about the students who actually go to public schools? How fair is it to the them to potentially lose spots on their school's sports teams and in the marching band to those who contribute nothing to day-to-day life inside the school?

Answer: It would not be fair to them at all.

On a practical level, how could you truly be sure that the standards of academics and behavior required of public school students to participate in extra-curricular activities were being applied in various home schools?

Then there are competitive and "level playing field" concerns.

Take just a little bit of imagination, then add some knowledge of the history of competitive excess — illegal recruiting, manipulation of foreign-exchange programs for athletic advantage, etc. — in Kentucky high school sports, and you can start to envision the mischief possible.

It just takes one or two rogue operators to create a wild, wild West.

Julian Tackett, commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, told the Herald-Leader his group opposes Lee's bill. The KHSAA's opposition, Tackett said, is because the wording of Lee's bill would offer "a blanket opportunity for any non-public school to have its students participate in school-based sports at another school."

That appears to be a bid to expand support for a Kentucky version of a Tim Tebow bill beyond home-schooled families to private school supporters as well.

In 2010, I wrote a column about a Lexington basketball team comprised of home-school students. The Bluegrass United Bluehawks played against other teams of the home-schooled from surrounding areas. It was an attempt by home-school parents to replicate the public-school sports experiences from which they had opted to remove their children.

If families who choose to home school want the benefits of extracurricular activities, that is the route that should be taken.

A public school's sports teams should be for students who attend that particular public school.

And no one else.

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