By Chelyen Davis

RICHMOND—The House of Delegates will vote Thursday on a bill allowing homeschool students to participate in high school sports.
The bill would let homeschoolers try out for sports teams, debate teams, forensics, drama and other competitive extracurricular activities run by the Virginia High School League.
The VHSL currently does not allow homeschool students to participate in those activities at the high school level.
The measure is often referred to as the “Tebow bill,” named for Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback who was a star at the University of Florida. He was homeschooled but allowed to play for his local high school team.

Del. Rob Bell, R–Albemarle, who is sponsoring the bill, said local school divisions could still bar homeschool students from their high school teams, and impose other rules like setting a GPA requirement.
“There’s not a single thing in this bill that prevents a locality from coming up with its own rules,” Bell said during floor debate on the bill in the House on Tuesday.

What his bill does, he said, is eliminate the restriction that says no high school can allow homeschool students to play for its teams.

“Nobody’s asking for a quota, nobody’s asking for a reserved position. All they’re asking is for a chance to try out,” Bell said.

Homeschool advocates say the parents pay taxes and the students should be allowed to play competitively for the local school, even if those students don’t attend it.
Del. Brenda Pogge, R–Yorktown, homeschooled her children for a time and said there is “an institutional bias” against homeschooling. Kids shouldn’t be discriminated against, she said, because of the choices their parents have made.
Opponents of Bell’s bill say it would create an uneven playing field, in which homeschool students who don’t have to be in school for a certain number of hours or abide by school rules for extracurricular activities might have an advantage.
“We need to really think through this. We’re not ready for this type of incursion into our school system,” said Del. Bob Tata, R–Virginia Beach, himself a retired high school coach. “You’re either a high school public school student  or you’re not. And if you are a high school public school student  you can participate in the activities that we just mentioned. If not, you should not be allowed to participate.”