Copyright ©2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Now, a story about home-schooled students and sports. Across the country, legislatures have debated whether homeschoolers should be allowed to play on public school teams. Indiana attempted to find the middle ground with a recent rule change. But as Steve Walsh reports from Lakeshore Public Radio, the change may be raising more questions than it answers.

STEVE WALSH, BYLINE: Fifteen-year-old Noel Keeble is one of four children home-schooled in St. John, Indiana, by his mother who has a master's degree in education. His father has a Ph.D. in particle physics. Noel wants to be a professional soccer player and plays on a private club in the spring. In the fall, though, he's been out of luck.

NOEL KEEBLE: Because all of the club teams let the high school players go out play for their school teams. I don't get seen as much. I don't get as much training as everyone else. And then it just - I don't stay as sharp and as ready.

WALSH: According to the Home-school Legal Defense Association, roughly half the states have laws making home-school students eligible for high school teams. Advocates often dub these Tim Tebow bills after the home-schooled quarterback who played on a high school team and then went on to win the Heisman and play in the NFL.

BOBBY COX: There are those within our membership that are not real excited about this rules change, and that was the reason why there was so much resistance to begin with.

WALSH: Bobby Cox heads the Indiana High School Athletic Association. In May, the group changed its rules to make home-school students eligible to play, but they left it up to local schools to decide whether to allow these students on their teams. Cox supported the compromise after lawmakers failed to pass a law in 2011 requiring all schools to allow home-schooled students. At the time, Cox lobbied against the bill, arguing it didn't guarantee that home-schooled students meet the same academic standards as those in public school.

COX: There is a significant portion of our membership that would say that when a home-school child decides to be home-schooled, they make a choice, but you forego other opportunities. On the other side of that ledger, we have those that are in agreement that says, well, a parent should always have the right to educate their child however they want to. However, they ought to be able to pick and choose whatever opportunities that are available from whatever institution or whatever agency.

ROBIN TOBIAS: It is difficult to justify allowing a true home-school student to participate in our activities when they don't necessarily have the same oversight exercised for our currently full-time enrolled students.

WALSH: That's Lake Central Principal Robin Tobias. He says his district has decided not to allow Noel to play on its soccer team. Aside from academic oversight, the rule change would require Noel to take at least one class and pass certain state tests. And the state doesn't reimburse districts for home-schoolers. Keeble's mom, Donna, says that's unfair. Parents are paying higher taxes after a recent referendum, and she thinks access to athletics should be separate from academics.

DONNA: If the gym and the weight room and the soccer fields are part of those facilities, I just want him to have access to it.

WALSH: Bob Gardner heads the National Federation of State High School Associations. He says some of this conflict is just based on tradition.

BOB GARDNER: One of the cardinal principles of all states when they began regulating high school athletics in their state was that a youngster only can participate on a school in which he is enrolled and taking academic and passing his academic classes.

WALSH: Gardner's members are now almost evenly divided. Each year, a few states opt to re-evaluate whether to allow home-schoolers to play on public school teams. In the meantime, kids like Noel wait to see if it will ever be their turn to be on the team. For NPR News, I'm Steve Walsh.



You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.