BRADLEY — Illinois high schools are witnessing a shift in their sports and activities policies, with school districts like Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School (BBCHS) leading the way.
The growing trend? Welcoming home-schooled students to participate in school athletics. But why the sudden change among institutions?
- Boosting School Reputation: Schools with more diverse and inclusive athletic programs can showcase a wider talent pool, potentially leading to better performance and increased accolades.
- Community Inclusivity: Having home-schooled students attend even just one course at the school fosters a sense of belonging. This sentiment of community is echoed by many educators across Illinois, who believe that every student, regardless of their schooling mode, should feel integrated into the wider community.
- Economic Fairness: Home-schooled students’ families still pay district taxes. Many believe it’s only fair these students benefit from school facilities and activities, particularly when their financial contributions support these programs.
- Enriched School Environment: Integrating home-schooled students can bring fresh perspectives and talents into a school’s athletic programs, enhancing the overall experience for all participants.
- The IHSA Stance: While the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) doesn’t mandate the inclusion of home-schooled students, its neutral stance empowers schools to make their decisions. This flexibility allows institutions to assess and recognize the potential benefits.
The push for home-schooled students’ inclusion in public school sports began gaining momentum with the 2012 Equal Access Bill, known as the “Tim Tebow Law” after the famed athlete who was homeschooled.
States like Arizona, Colorado, and Florida have embraced this trend, passing relevant legislation. Some, like here in Illinois and Michigan, require partial enrollment, while others, such as Massachusetts and Tennessee, rely on athletic association endorsements instead of legislation. Meanwhile, 15 states, including Texas and Virginia, are considering similar measures.
While proponents see it as a step toward a more unified educational community, leveraging all available talents. Opponents worry about potential logistical challenges and fairness in opportunities. As the debate continues, the question arises: Can a balance be struck that satisfies both traditional and home-schooled communities while preserving the integrity of school athletic programs?