A bill which would allow homeschooled student-athletes to participate in Alabama high school athletics cleared committee in the state Senate earlier this month.
The bill — known as Alabama’s “Tim Tebow Bill” in reference to the former University of Florida and current NFL quarterback who was homeschooled, but was permitted to play public school athletics under a similar law in Florida — was approved by a 3-2 vote of the Senate Education Committee.
If it is eventually voted into law, the bill would allow homeschooled students to take part in public school athletic and band programs provided the students meet the same standards required of students enrolled in public schools.
According to www.timtebowbill.com, legislation was first brought to the state Senate and the House of Representatives in 2006. It was rewritten in 2009 in response to questions from the committee.
Opinions of the bill have varied since its submission.
New Brockton athletic director Jim Bob Striplin cited concerns with monitoring academics and student-athletes being absent from campus during the school day.
“I prefer to have all of my athletes here at school,” Striplin said. “I feel like part of any young (student’s) education is being able to function in a daily school atmosphere.”
Striplin said his concern was academic standards, but also the camaraderie which exists between teammates.
“I’d say I’m not for it simply because of the fact that you can’t get the full school experience, including the camaraderie that comes with extra-curricular activities,” he said. “You can’t get that at home.”
Enterprise athletic director Kevin Collins echoed Striplin’s thoughts.
“There are just a lot of things that build into any athletic team, as far as participation through the school day goes,” Collins said. “We have team building through weight training. We have meetings through the days. We’ve got a lot of just being around other students and letting them take pride in who they see every day in the halls as far as going out and representing teams.”
Collins said getting the entire high school experience is important for student-athletes.
“They need to be able to experience all of the (things) that go along with it,” he said. “When you take a (city) like Enterprise, which really has athletics as kind of a focal point, when a (student) is not involved in all of that experience I don’t think it’s good for them.”
Academics were also a concern for Collins.
Proponents of the bill have also addressed the issue of academic standards.
State Sen. Gerald Allen, who voted in favor of the bill in committee earlier this month, said academics should be monitored if homeschooled students are allowed to participate in athletics or band programs.
“Certainly there needs to be some guidelines and some type of policy to govern those activities and those student-athletes,” Allen said. “I don’t see any problem with having regulations and some type of policies in place, but at the same time I do feel like those student-athletes should have the right to play high school athletics in the public setting if that’s what they choose to do.”
Allen said he voted for the bill because homeschooled students’ parents contribute to the economy through taxes.
“I’ve always felt that the parents and grandparents of those children are most likely good, hard-working Alabama taxpayers,” he said. “They pay taxes just like any parent or grandparent would if their children were in public schools. My feeling is regardless of where those students are if they want to have the right to play high school athletics in an appropriate setting for the school, they should have that right since their parents are good, law-abiding taxpayers.”
The issue of academic standards and monitoring is one Allen understands.
“All of the details, in my opinion, should be worked out,” he said. “The dialogue between the parents, the homeschool association, the public schools, the state superintendent, the state school board or the local school board should be worked out where if a student-athlete is being homeschooled, those students should not have a problem with taking some type of exam to see exactly (where) their academic status is.”
An exam is one solution Allen said might be a key to bringing those on both sides of the issue closer.
“There should be some type of testing procedures put in place for any student-athlete (who is) homeschooled and would like to go into the public setting to play high school athletics,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with them taking a test. In my opinion, that should be a very good, meaningful compromise that should be worked out.”
Sen. Harri Anne Smith, who represents District 29, is also in favor of the bill.
“I’ve had parents call me and they want their children to be able to participate in organized sports or activities so their children can be involved with other children,” she said. “Hopefully, we will be able to get it on the Senate floor and get it up for debate and for a vote.”