Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Chalk TalksLet Them Play: Why Kentucky Should Enact a "Tebow Bill" Allowing Homeschoolers to Participate in Public School Sports

Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Chalk TalksLet Them Play: Why Kentucky Should Enact a "Tebow Bill" Allowing Homeschoolers to Participate in Public School Sports

Article excerpt


Quarterback Tim Tebow's NFL career may be over, given his recent release from the New England Patriots and employment as a sports analyst on ESPN.1 However, he may have a more meaningful legacy in the area of education policy than in football. Tebow was a homeschooled student in Florida who was able to play on a public high school football team due to the state's "Craig Dickinson Act"2 passed in 1996.3 In response to Tebow's meteoric career, a number of states across the country have passed "Tebow bills." These are either legislation or changes to the rules of an athletic association that allow homeschooled students to participate in public school extracurricular athletic activities.4 This note will first analyze the Florida law that allowed Tebow to compete, then briefly review the laws of other states that allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports in some way. It will then discuss four representative examples of "Tebow bills," beginning with the Louisiana statute struck down by the Louisiana Supreme Court and Tennessee's recently passed legislation. This note will then consider Indiana's athletic association rule change and Kentucky's proposed but not enacted Tebow bill. It will conclude by arguing that the Kentucky state legislature should reintroduce and pass the Tebow bill, following the model of recently passed legislation to raise the school dropout age. Thus, Kentucky homeschooled students would have opportunities to develop their athletic talents and interact with other students, while still being primarily educated by their parents and maintaining academic accountability.


A. The Original "Tebow Bill:" The Craig Dickinson Act of 1996

The first "Tebow Bill" originated due to the efforts of homeschooling activist Brenda Dickinson.' She advocated for the bill for several years without success. Then, she received support not just from Republicans but also from many female state legislators. These legislatures opposed the Florida High School Activities Association at the time due to unrelated concerns about a girls track team believed to have suffered gender discrimination after being disqualified from a competition over uniforms.6 With bipartisan support, the Florida legislature passed the Craig Dickinson Act in 1996, named for Brenda Dickinson's late husband.7

The Acts contains several provisions common to the Tebow bills later passed by states and high school athletic associations. First, it specifically forbids organizations that govern public school extracurricular activities, including athletics, to discriminate against students based on their choice of private or home education.^ Second, the Act does not allow homeschooled students to choose the school where they will participate in sports. Rather, it allows them to "participate at the public school to which the student would be assigned according to district school board attendance area policies or which the student could choose to attend pursuant to district or inter-district controlled open enrollment provisions."10

The Act not only requires that homeschooled students be allowed to participate, but it also imposes accountability requirements. Students must comply with the applicable homeschooling state regulations." These regulations require the parent to notify the school district of the intent to homeschool the student and maintain a portfolio including writing samples, readings, and records of educational activities.12 In order to participate in public school sports, the student must meet "the same standards of acceptance, behavior, and performance as required of other students in extracurricular activities,"13 and must "demonstrate educational progress."14 The parent and the school principal determine the method of demonstrating educational progress. The Act suggests that such methods may include "review of the student's work by a certified teacher chosen by the parent," grades earned through courses taken at a Florida university, or standardized test scores. …

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