TSBA has recommended a change to Board Policy #4.301 (the underlined language would be inserted into the Board’s current policy) in response to a recent change in the Tennessee Secondary School Athletics Association (TSSAA) Bylaws. The recent change in the Bylaws of TSSAA provides, “A home schooled student wishing to participate in extracurricular athletics at a member school shall be eligible if…” certain qualifications are met. These qualifications are as follows:
- The student shall be enrolled in a home school study program in compliance with Section 49-6-3050(b)(1) and be registered with the local director of schools (or head of school, if a private school) by August 15 of the current school year.
- The participating student must have a legal residence within the school district where he/she is registered, if registering with a public school. If registering with a private school, the student must have a legal residence within 20 miles of the private school and meet all tuition and financial aid requirements.
- By August 15 of the school year, the parent or guardian must make application to the principal of the member school in which the home school athlete wishes to participate.
- The home school athlete shall meet the same academic standards required of a member school student athlete to participate in the athletic program; however, the Director of Schools for public schools (or the head of school for private schools) in which a home school athlete wishes to participate shall work with the parent or guardian to ensure that the home school athlete is academically eligible. If a home school student’s course of study does not include five (5) academic subjects, then the Director of Schools (or head of school, if a private school) and the parent shall develop an alternative measure of academic progress and submit the same to the TSSAA for approval. Proof of academic eligibility shall be provided by the member school to the TSSAA each semester.
- The home school student must provide proof of basic medical insurance coverage and both independently secured catastrophic insurance coverage and liability insurance coverage which names the TSSAA as an insured party in the event the school’s insurance provider does not extend coverage to students enrolled in home school programs. The insurance must be in place before the home school student practices or participates.
- The LEA may impose a participation fee for each athletic sport in which a home school athlete wishes to participate. Such participation fee shall not exceed three hundred dollars annually for each sport and shall be paid in full prior to the first regular season contest. A home school student participating at a private school shall be subject to full tuition and financial aid rules.
- The home school student must meet all other TSSAA eligibility requirements.
- All eligibility issues may be appealed in accordance with the Bylaws of the TSSAA.
- The home school athlete must adhere to the same standards of behavior, responsibility, performance, and code of conduct as other participants of the team.
- This rule gives a home school athlete the opportunity to try out for a member school’s athletic team. Ultimate decisions on the roster are left to the member schools and are not governed by the TSSAA. No student is guaranteed participation, but only the opportunity to try out for a position on the team, subject to the other provisions of this rule.
Needless to say, this rule change has created quite a controversy statewide. However, the change in policy is designed to protect the System from liability in the event of injury either to the student or caused by the student.
I recommend approval of the above-noted amendment to Board Policy #4.301 on first reading.