Senate seeks to let home-schoolers play public school sports

ATLANTA (AP) — Home-schooled athletes are one step closer to being able to play on their local public school team after the Senate voted 39-15 to pass Senate Bill 51 on Wednesday.
The measure lets students in grades 6-12 take part in sports or other extracurricular activities such as band, drama or school clubs when they take at least one online course facilitated by the local public school system.
“This provides equality for a home-school family," said Sen. Bruce Thompson, a Republican from White. “This outlines a way for them to be able to have access to that school.”
The bill moves to the House, which has traditionally been the roadblock to approving home-schooler participation in public school interscholastic athletics. However, a House committee approved a bill mirroring the current concept before COVID-19 upended the 2020 session, signaling a breakthrough.
The Georgia High School Association, which oversees athletics and activities for public schools and some private schools in the state, has endorsed the bill.
More than 25 states allow home-schooled students to participate in sports and activities. Such laws are typically called Tim Tebow bills, named for the University of Florida football star who was a home-schooler when he made his mark playing football for a public high school in Florida.
Georgia schools have been resistant to such a plan, citing concerns about costs, the ability to discipline someone who’s not a student and taking places away from other students. But requiring the student to take at least one course gives schools the ability to require students meet their code of conduct.
“Many of these now see this as an opportunity for public schools to partner with home schools as they highlight, through a course they will get paid for, how good the school is," Thompson said.
But Sen. Lester Jackson, a Savannah Democrat, said he’s worried coaches will take advantage of the bill to cultivate athletes while losing the academic benefits of the classroom.
“What happens to that young Black boy after he gets a championship ring on his finger? He can’t pass the SAT; he can’t pass the ACT," Jackson said.
Student would play at the public schools for which they are normally zoned and would have to get selected through a normal tryout process. Students who leave public school would be ineligible to participate at a public school for 12 months after withdrawing. ———
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