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Home schoolers and sports: High court to hear case today

June 02, 1999

Talk to advocates of home-schooling children and they'll tell you that they can provide lessons at home that are just as challenging as any public school's, without exposing their children to what they say can be a value-free environment.

To make up for the social interaction children miss, home-school societies have even formed groups to allow their children to socialize together.

But one thing the home-school movement can't do is provide the experience of organized sports. To fill that void, some parents in West Virginia are asking that their home-schooled children be allowed to play on their local schools' teams. Some schools have said "no" abnd the state Supreme Court will hear parents' appeal today.

The case involves a home-schooled Hampshire County junior high student, who wanted to compete on his local school's cross-country team. School officials said no, citing a West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission rule: Children who compete must be enrolled in the school that they represent.

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WVSSAC officials say it's an issue of fairness, and to allow a stuident who isn't enrolled to take the place of someone who is wouldn't be fair. The rule is also designbed to prevent schools from recruiting players for their sports team from outside the school district.

And finally, there's the issue of eligibility, and the possibility raised by WVSSAC officials that a student ruled ineligible for academic reasons might switch to home-schooling to boost his or her grant-point average.

Onthis last point, we agree with the one-school forces; that's a lot of trouble and expense to go to just to keep a child on a sports team. But unless there's going to be an endless round of protests and disputes about elibility, the state needs standard rules.

We agree with WVSSAC that playing sports is not a right, buit a privilege that's granted based on meeting certain other standards, like grades. If students want to participate in sports, they should be willing to take the same tests as their counterparts in the classroom. That way there won't eb any dispute who's academically eligible, and who's not.

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