Local officials weigh in on ‘Tebow’ bill

Henrico Del. Jennifer McClellan said home-schooled children could have an unfair advantage over other students under a bill that would let them participate in public school sports.

“It doesn’t create a level playing field because public school kids have a lot of regulations they have to live by,” said McClellan, who voted against the bill that passed the House last week. “Home-schooled kids could spend two hours in the morning at the gym. You have two different sets of kids competing for spots on the same team.”

Patrick Russo, superintendent of Henrico Public Schools, also said the popularly named “Tebow” bill, HB 947, was not a good idea.

“It really comes down to the fact that when parents make a choice to home-school, we don’t think that there should be that choice provided for that child to partake when they don’t meet the same requirement for testing,” he said.

The bill has the potential to cause problems, Russo said. One concern is that a public school student who goes to class everyday and is governed by the rules of the school would be competing for the same spot on a team against someone who doesn’t, he said.

“If a parent wants to home school I respect that,” Russo said, “but it doesn’t give them the right, if you make that choice, to have the option to participate in a public school activity.”

Henrico Del. Joseph Morrissey, D-74, disagrees.

Since the parents who home-school their children still pay taxes to support the public schools, their children should be able to participate in sports in the district that they live in, Morrissey said. He said he has supported this bill since it first appeared in the assembly in 2008.

“I think that home-school students should be able to participate in debate, drama, music, band and everything else,” Morrissey said, “just as long as they make the team like everyone else.”

Del. John Cox, R-55, said that the issues that this bill addressed would clearly make some people happy and some people angry, but that he had voted to support it.

“I fell on the side with the homeschoolers,” Cox said. “I don’t really believe that they are going to undermine the athletic programs in schools.”

Del. Riley Ingram, R-62, said that he had always been a strong supporter of home schooling, but if students wanted to play sports then they needed to be enrolled in the school system.

“The schools can’t stop them from playing sports because of grades like they can for children who are enrolled in the system,” Ingram said. “Where is it going to stop? Are home-school children entitled to be in the science club?”

Other local votes on the bill: In favor: Christopher Peace (R-97), James Massie (R-72), John O'Bannon (R-73), Roxann Robinson (R-27), Kirkland Cox (R-66), Manoli Loupassi (R-68). Opposed: Rosalyn Dance (D-63), Lee Ware (R-65), Betsy Carr (D-69).
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April 2017
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