Homeschoolers allowed to play in Douglas County sports

Homeschooled students will be allowed to participate in Douglas County school district sports on a space-available basis.

The Douglas County School board voted four to three at Tuesday's monthly school board meeting to approve homeschool participation, resolving three months of discussion on the topic.

Students attending public school will be given priority. If there are open slots, homeschoolers would be allowed to play, providing they meet all the academic requirements.

This means that some homeschooled students will have more opportunity to play in some sports such track, which allows many students to participate. Activities like basketball, golf, soccer, softball and volleyball, have limited space.

At last month's school board meeting, the issue was continued to find out the impact of homeschoolers on sports in counties that have allowed them to play.

"It is always difficult to exclude someone," said superintendent Rich Alexander during a presentation on the matter. "We want to be an inclusive organization. Yet if we do include homeschooled students in athletics, we are facing the exclusion of our own students."

Research showed that fewer than 10 home-schooled students participate in each of three counties -- including Clark County with Las Vegas.

Putting a face on the issue, Alexander described his young neighbor who practices each day for the basketball team. He said she has been cut for the past two years.

"I hear the ball every night," he said. "I want her to have a chance to play (if selected)."

During public comment, a the homeschooled daughter of William McKissock, retorted in tears that she should be allowed to play volleyball because she practices just as hard.

District administrators, including the two Douglas High School interim principals Tom Morgan and Susan Baldwin, Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School Principal Robin Pedrett; Carson Valley Middle School Principal Marty Swisher, DHS assistant football coach Ernie Monfiletto, and DHS athletic director and dean of students Steve Wilcox spoke against allowing homeschool students to participate.

Principal Mario Gatto of George Whittell High School, in a letter read by Morgan, supported keeping sports for students attending district schools.

Morgan compared homeschool students allowed to play sports to getting dessert without participating in the meal, doing dishes, and cleaning up.

Baldwin, who was one of the last to comment, made her concluding statements: "Public education is not exclusive, it's inclusive. Homeschoolers made a choice. Our students have chosen us," she said. "Quite frankly, we do not owe homeschooled students anything. They didn't pick us. If they want sports, they need to be part of DHS."

Other aspects of the issue presented to the school board, included: elimination of an-us-versus-them attitude; the importance of building relationships with students in a school setting; additional work for administrators to check grades; whether sports are treated differently that other extracurricular activities and why; and skill, not school choice, being the basis to play.

McKissock, father of the student who wants to play volleyball, said, "I'm trying to raise my kids in a proper community. This is a community. It's Douglas County. It's all our kids. They're equal. I see it as a community. I don't' see it as 'us and them.'"

Despite comments from administrators, school trustees strongly thought homeschooled students should be able to participate in district sports.

"Voting against this would go against my core beliefs," said trustee Keith Roman, in his second year on the school board. "Kids should be able to play sports. They should be given an opportunity. This isn't a guarantee, it isn't perfect, but it is based on models used elsewhere."

He said he thinks less than 10 homeschooled students would participate in Douglas County district sports.

"The thing is I would never budge on regards academic requirements," said Roman, regarding the requirements to participate, which includes having grades checked every three weeks.

The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association gives counties the option to decide whether homeschool students can play in sports. Yet, state law, says districts must allow students to take classes, participate in band and other activities, when space is available

Trustees David Brady, outgoing Cheri Johnson and John Louritt voted against the decision to allow homeschoolers to play on a space-available basis. Louritt, however, in an earlier vote, supported homeschoolers being allowed to participate in sports.

The new regulation will take effect during the winter sports session.

"It's like a head-on collision," Roman said. "I'm glad it's over. I think the administrators were trying to present strong arguments. It shows democracy is live and well in Douglas County."


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