Home-Schooled Children and Interscholastic Athletes
Pittman, Andrew T., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
Reid v. Kenowa Hills Public Schools
680 N.W.2d 62
Michigan Court of Appeals
March 2, 2004
A group of parents, led by Stephen and Debbie Reid (plaintiffs), chose to home-school their children rather than enrolling them in public schools. They decided to do so "in order to fulfill their God-given responsibility to raise children that know, love, and serve God and their fellow man" and to ensure their children's proper religious instruction. To supplement their children's education, the parents sought their children's participation in extracurricular interscholastic athletic programs in the school districts where they resided. The school districts informed the parents that their children could not participate in the districts' extracurricular interscholastic athletic programs unless the children were enrolled in a public school within that district for at least 20 hours per week.
In a six-count complaint seeking a permanent injunction, the plaintiffs alleged that the school districts' refusal violated their statutory and constitutional rights. They contended that the denial of the right to participate in extracurricular sports activities denied their children an equal opportunity to receive collegiate athletic scholarships, thereby denying them equal protection under the law.
The circuit court dismissed the case by granting summary judgment for the school districts.
Issues on Appeal
Does the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) regulation on enrollment impose a burden on the exercise of the plaintiff's religious beliefs or conduct or on their constitutional and statutory rights to participate in interscholastic athletics?
Holdings of the Court
The Michigan Court of Appeals held that nonenrolled students did not have the statutory right to participate in extracurricular interscholastic athletic programs; that the enrollment requirement did not violate the rights of nonenrolled students to freely practice their religion; and that the enrollment requirement did not violate equal protection rights of nonenrolled students.
Reasoning of the Court
The plaintiffs' first argument was that their children have a statutory right to participate in extracurricular interscholastic athletic events. The MHSAA enrollment regulations state, in part, that in order to be eligible for interscholastic athletics, a student must be enrolled in school by the fourth Friday of either the first or second semester and, unless exempted, must be enrolled in at least 20 credit hours in the school for which he or she competes. The MHSAA defines "enrolled" as "actually having attended one or more classes in a school as well as the appearance of a student's name on the books of the school." If a school does not have an extracurricular interscholastic sports program, the student may participate in another school's athletic program, as long as the student is enrolled in and passing 20 credits. If a school were to allow participation by a student who is not enrolled according to regulations, the school would be sanctioned by forfeiting any victory to its opponents and by having team records stricken.
The plaintiffs argued that students not enrolled in a public school are allowed to enroll in noncore programs. In Snyder v. Charlotte Public School District Eaton City (1984), the Michigan Supreme Court defined noncore classes as nonessential elective courses that need not be taught in public schools, such as science, band, shop, domestic science, and advanced math. Interscholastic extracurricular activities did not fit that definition, nor were they considered physical education classes, which are mandated by Michigan law (Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated, 380. 1502 ). Physical education classes are for all of the pupils of the school and not for a select few like interscholastic athletics.
The plaintiffs' second argument was that their right to practice religion was violated. …