to Public School Sports & Extracurricular Activities
After years of legislative debate and the near passage of similar legislation, Governor Jim Justice signed into law House Bill 4925, making public school extracurricular activities more accessible to West Virginia homeschoolers. The new law, which amends W. Va. Code § 18-2-25, establishes the eligibility of homeschool students for public school athletics and extracurricular activities at the school within their attendance zone. Homeschoolers must also satisfy the following requirements:
1) demonstrate “satisfactory evidence of academic progress for one year” as provided in the homeschool exemption statute (§18-8-1(c));
2) enrollment in in at least one virtual course per semester;
3) younger than 19 years of age by August 1st of the current school year;
4) amateur status, i.e., receives no compensation;
5) agreement to comply with “all disciplinary rules” of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) and county board of education; and
6) agreement to obey all WVSSAC rules regarding awards, all-star games, parental consents, physical examination, and vaccinations applicable to high school athletes.
The law also applies WVSSAC transfer rules to homeschool students who withdraw from public schools. In that situation, if the student withdrew from school during the academic year, the newly homeschooled student would be prohibited from participating in sports at that school (or potentially another WVSSAC school) for one year, per WVSSAC regulations.
Finally, the law permits the imposition of “reasonable fees” to cover the costs of participation in extracurricular activities.
Based on comments by WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan, the WVSSAC is expected to adopt implementing rules this summer, which should ensure homeschooler eligibility for the 2020 fall sports season. County boards of education also may adopt special rules in response to this law. These rules could address any other conditions regarding the required virtual school course and the imposition of any participation fees, among other questions potentially left unanswered by the law. Therefore, homeschooling families who plan to take advantage of these new opportunities will need to follow developments on a state and county level in the coming months.