Utah Senate panel OKs bill to allow home-schooled students to play sports

Education » This year's proposal closes loopholes that doomed the idea in the past.
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A bill that would require districts to allow home-school and private-school students to participate in sports and other activities at public schools passed committee Wednesday morning.

This is the fourth year that Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, has proposed the bill, SB66. In years past, lawmakers have rejected the proposal, saying it created too many loopholes for failing students to participate in sports and wouldn't have held home-schooled students to the same academic standards as traditional students.

This year, however, Madsen has tried to close those loopholes. The bill would require the parents or teachers of home-schooled students who wanted to participate in sports to sign affidavits saying their students are academically up to par.

And this year, the bill would allow others to contest those affidavits with school principals if they believed the claims weren't true. Home-schooled students who could pass the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test (UBSCT) would be considered academically eligible. If a contested student had not yet taken the UBSCT, a superintendent-appointed panel of people with home-schooling experience would ultimately decide the student's eligibility.

Several home-schooled students and parents spoke in support of the bill Wednesday. Bart Thompson, with the Utah High School Activities Association, however, voiced concerns about the makeup of the panel saying that having a panel consisting of only those with home-school experience could lead some to doubt the panel's rulings. He also worried about requiring a home-schooled student only to pass the UBSCT when traditional students must maintain certain grade-point averages.

The committee ultimately passed the bill with no dissenting votes. It now moves to the Senate floor.