MANASSAS, Va. - In Virginia, the State Senate will soon consider a bill that would allow homeschooled students to participate in public school sports and activities like band.
Delegate Marie March, who represents the 7th district, introduced House Bill 511 which has advanced on a narrow 50 to 49 vote. The legislation is known as the "Tebow Bill" named after former NFL star Tim Tebow – who was home-schooled in Florida, but was able to play public school football.
She says this is already happening in 35 other states, which would make Virginia the 36th. Maryland and D.C. do not have a law like this.
"Homeschooling has grown a lot through the pandemic," March said. "A lot of parents chose to take their kids out of public schools and this is a way to bring people back together."
FOX5’s Sierra Fox spoke with a Prince William County mother, Kristina Kotlus, who home schools all three of her kids. Her son is now a senior but wishes he got the opportunity to play football on a public school field for visibility and scouting purposes.
"There are a lot of benefits to it. One of which being to get to see what it’s like to be at a public school. They get to meet a lot of new people, and it also gives them a higher level of competition because in the private sports, you still have some competition, but it makes it harder for college coaches to really gauge how you are compared to people in public school sports," said Kristina's son Ryan Kotlus.
March says this would not be a statewide mandate. Local school boards would have the option of whether they want to give homeschoolers the opportunity to participate in public school sports and activities like band.
School boards could also charge fees for participation as a way for schools to raise money.
"As someone that pays taxes and home schools my kids, I’m used to paying into a system I don’t get to take advantage of. So, even if we had to pay for our kids to be able to play in addition to meeting those eligibility requirements, we’d be willing to do it because we’re going to have to do that anyways," Kristina Kotlus said.
The Virginia Education Association (VEA) opposes the bill and thinks homeschooled students should be required to do half a day at a public school in order to participate in their sports and activities.
"We believe the rules should not be legislated or codified into state law, but that the VHSL – the Virginia High School League – should only have that sole authority to establish those rules for student participation," said Shane Riddle, VEA Director of Government Relations & Research.
A number of Northern Virginia school districts tell FOX 5 they do not take a position on proposed legislation. This bill will go to the State Senate Thursday morning and if it passes, it will go to the governor’s desk for signature.