We have written (HERE) and commented on the controversy surrounding the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s recent ruling on a set of guidelines encouraging, but not requiring, member schools to allow homeschooled students to participate in public school athletics beginning in the 2011-12 academic year.

In an August 1st article, “Board disallows home-schoolers participation in sports” the Tennesseean (available to read in full HERE) reports the Dickson County School Board ruled not to allow home-schoolers’ participation in school sports.  The Tennessean further reports:

Board chairman Tim Potter added the discussion and action item to the school board’s meeting agenda on July 28.  Potter, along with the rest of the board, voted against home-school participation.  [Potter said] “Participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege. It’s a privilege to those students that follow the rules, meet academic requirements for eligibility, follow the dress codes…Being a full time student in the Dickson County school system carries with it privileges and obligations and I want to be fair to those students enrolled.”

Ok, halt the presses right there!  “Participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege.”  We would ask Mr. Potter if athletics is a “privilege” and not an integral part of a child’s development why in the world are taxpayers literally spending millions to fund athletics.  If exercise and athletics is not an integral part of a child’s education why do we take time away from their “education” during the school day for athletics?  If it is as Mr. Potter claims then we taxpayers must demand a halt all athletics funding and demand those funds be put towards “education.”

Next, “It’s a privilege to those students that follow the rules, meet academic requirements for eligibility, follow the dress codes…Being a full time student in the Dickson County school system carries with it privileges and obligations and I want to be fair to those students enrolled.”  The first sentence of the Dickson County School Board Mission Statement reads:  “To improve academic achievement while making each [ emphasis ours ] Child’s educational experience relevant to real world expectations.”  We would ask Mr. Potter who he thinks voted for him?  School board members are elected to fight for and protect the educational needs of all the children in a county/district.  Does he think home-school parents don’t vote?  Does he think home-school parents don’t pay taxes?  Does he think home-school children don’t deserve or require representation?  Are home-school children an unprotected or undeserving class?

Mr. Potter’s attitude is an example of the point we made in our posting yesterday, “Ignorance Is Not Bliss,” which states “…every bureaucracy has proven their original purpose and intent always evolve into merely growing and feeding the bureaucracy. In this case doing what ever is best and required to educate all of our children, to the best of our ability, given limited resources becomes secondary to funding the districts, schools, administration, teachers, etc.”  The Dickson school board has decided to “protect” the school system (the bureaucracy) at the cost of the educational needs of home-school children.

The article continues:

Board member Kirk Vandivort said the requirements of home-schooled students and enrolled students is like “comparing apples to oranges.  We’re looking at different standards academically and disciplinary wise…I also think we’re heaping a bunch of responsibility on coaches and principals that those same standards are enforced.”

We are NOT “comparing apples to oranges” Mr. Vandivort.  We are comparing two sets of children, those attending the local public schools and those being home-schooled and they all deserve the best education the taxpayers of Dickson and of Tennessee can provide for them.  As far as we can tell, taxpayers have decided athletics to be a legitimate part of education.  When did the taxpayers of Dickson declare they don’t care about the educational needs of home-schooled children?

“We’re looking at different standards academically and disciplinary wise…”  Set the academic and discipline standards and any student who fails to meet them gets booted.  Home-school students are tested.  They can be “judged.”  What is the problem Mr. Vandivort?

“I also think we’re heaping a bunch of responsibility on coaches and principals that those same standards are enforced.”  If the coaches and principals cannot handle the responsibility of their positions, then it is clear they need a new line of work.  Every job has responsibility and every job evolves; those who can’t keep up find new employment.  Sorry if this is harsh, but the Dickson school board is ruling on the development, lives, educations and futures of our children.  We put a higher premium on the needs of children than the comfort level of the “grown-ups” and so should the Dickson school board.  They are once again showing they have lost the focus of their elected responsibility, the education of children.

 “It’s not about this one child playing ball or not. It’s about do you open the gates for people to manipulate or take advantage of (the system)?  It happens, even with our enrolled children.” [Said District 3 board member Steve Haley] Haley is in the process of investigating the issue further, and said that he hasn’t decided whether he’ll ask the board to reconsider.

Wrong Mr. Haley.  It IS about the educational needs of one child.  They may be many or few, but in each home-school family is one child with a name and an educational need; since (we reiterate) we have deemed athletics an important part of education.  If there are problems with district enrollment manipulation, then handle that issue.  Don’t deny one child or one set of children the education they need and deserve.

We would like to share the very articulate and impassioned letter from home-school parent, Melanie Holcomb who gives additional clarification and rebuttal:

You may not agree with or understand why someone would choose to homeschool, it’s different for all of us, but why would you not allow a child the opportunity to play a sport? My son has played baseball and football for the city for 3 years. He is too old to play junior pro and when the TSSAA passed this bylaw in December, we were thrilled. We met with the appropriate people, met all the requirements and were able to get him registered just in time for spring training. He spent 2 weeks training at DMS in May and went back in July. He’s been at every practice and was looking forward to today’s when I got the call from the Coach telling me that my son couldn’t play. I was stunned. Why? I was told about the vote and that he (the coach) didn’t know about it until someone called him. I didn’t understand how the superintendent, the school and the coaches had welcomed him with open arms just to “dump” him like this. But, it wasn’t the superintendent, the school or the coaches that made this decision, it was the county school board. A board made up of 6 “elected” people. Six people who believe that “sports is a privilege” not meant for anyone but their students, as opposed to all children in their county. I think what hurts the most, is that I have spent the last several months bragging to family, friends and fellow homeschoolers, about Dickson County Schools and their willingness to accept my son as a child, not a homeschooler. And, today his dreams were ripped away. I just don’t get it! What is so awful about approving this bylaw?

In addition to the statement I sent the Herald, I would like to comment on some of the statements made by board members.  First, my son was already involved in the DMS football program and plenty of people knew about it.  I think it was extremely unfair to “slip” this onto the agenda without contacting us or letting us make some type of statement.  However, what is done, is done.

I want people to know that my son did not take a position away from a public school kid.  The bylaw gives a home-schooler the opportunity to try out, it does not a guarantee participation. The coach told everyone that as long as they showed up and wanted to play, they had a spot on his team.  Every child was encouraged to “earn” their position and my son was no exception.

Academics – Homeschool students that do not use an umbrella school, are required to submit records of attendance and take TCAP tests in 5th, 7th and 9th grades.  The TSSAA bylaw increased this reporting to include subject and grade reporting.  They even stated that a school could require additional measures if necessary.  All of these requirements were met and when I left the superintendent’s office, I told them that if something changed or if I needed to do anything else, let me know. It was my responsibility to provide them with the necessary paperwork, proof of insurance, etc., not the other way around.

In regards to the money.  I don’t know how much it costs a child to play football but the bylaw says the school can impose a participation fee up to $300.  The superintendent waved the fee for us, but I am willing to pay for his expenses, uniform, whatever is necessary.

The ninth requirement of the TSSAA bylaw says that the home school athlete must adhere to the same standards of behavior, responsibility, performance and code of conduct as other participants of the team.  I don’t know why there is a concern here.  If my son misbehaves then I expect him to be disciplined just like any other member of the team.  I don’t think he should be treated any different.

I have contacted all the news channels, and copied all the board members.  It is so heartbreaking.  The coach told us that Braydon was going to be his starting running back on JV and would have a spot on varsity as well.  He told us Braydon was welcome back if we could get everything worked out.  He hated to lose him.

What are these people thinking?

TNSC thanks Ms. Holcomb for bringing this to our attention and sharing her story with our readers.  We would ask our readers to contact the Dickson County School Board and respectfully express your disappointment with their TSSAA ruling and ask them to reconsider.  Contact information is available Here.

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