Secondly, the student must meet the requirements for a home education program, which include the same curriculum as listed in Florida Statutes, 232.246(1) (Florida Statute 232.0201, 1993). During the time of participation, the student must show evidence of academic progress, as determined by an evaluation which may include a review of the student's work by a certified instructor, grades obtained through correspondence courses or community colleges, or standardized test scores (Florida Statute 232.0201, 1993). The student must register with the school at the beginning of the term in which they wish to participate (Florida Statute 232.425, 2003).
These requirements are difficult enough to enforce, but as noted, with proper testing and evaluation by qualified instructors, the curriculum and grading of home educated students appears to be very manageable. In the State of Florida, then, the academic requirements for sport participation are equal for both public and home educated students. Although there is certainly more room for fraud and improper grading techniques for home educated students, the evaluations necessary can alleviate much of this concern.
However, while the academic requirements may be manageable enough, the other requirements are not as easily supervised. For example, in order for home educated students to participate in the public school sports programs, they are required to maintain the same attendance requirements as those in the public school system (Florida Statute 232.425, 2003). The problem with this concept is that this requirement relies on input from the parents instructing the home educated. Since the parents obviously wish for their children to participate, the result can be a dichotomy. If their children do not meet the attendance requirements, there is no motivation, other than morality, to dictate their disclosure of this information. Additionally, there is not a practical way for public school officials to determine attendance of home educated students.
Still another requirement, which is difficult to enforce, is that of the behavioral requirements. While actual felony charges or convictions are easily obtained for home educated children, other behavioral issues are not. Since the Florida Statute for home educated children specifically requires adherence to local school board policies for behavior (Florida Statute 232.425, 2003), the parents are again responsible for enforcement. Without a logical way to monitor home educated student's behaviors, there is again a large possibility of improper disclosure.
In addition to the above issue regarding behavioral enforcement, there is another concern among parents, administrators, and the students themselves.
In some person's opinions, in order for a team member to effectively fit in and represent the school they are competing for, they need to be involved in the every day happenings within that school (Griffith, 1995). Without proper socialization with other team members outside of practice and competitions, some believe the teamwork aspect of the sports team is lost, which is a disservice to all who compete and support the team. Further, some coaches believe that the relationship between coach and student is vital to the athletic team, and to the athlete in general, and that without constant access to them, the coaches cannot foster this relationship (Griffith, 1995).
While the requirements above are specific to Florida Statute, they certainly mimic those in other states, which do currently allow home educated students equal participation rights, as do some of the other issues facing equal participation rules such as teacher and paraprofessional certification. With the passage of the No Child Left Behind act (USDE, 2003), all paraprofessionals are required to have additional training, beyond the previously required secondary school diploma. With the alterations to Title I, Part A, paraprofessionals must have also completed two years of study at an institution of higher education, obtained an associate's degree, or be able to demonstrate knowledge and ability to assist in instructing through formal assessment. For teachers, the new requirements include a basic teaching dress, full state certification and licensure, and assessments to show the instructor has full knowledge in all areas they are responsible for teaching. Thus, teachers who obtained a degree in teaching with emphasis in English can no longer also teach American Government without first proving they have full knowledge of the subject. If these conditions are not met, the school employing the teacher or paraprofessional is ineligible to receiving funding under Title I, and is subject to other punishments (USDE, 2003).
However, home school educators are not generally required to obtain these same certifications or prove their knowledge in any subject they instruct. Only a few states require any sort of certification. In North Dakota, for example, those choosing to instruct their children at home must possess either a teaching certificate or a baccalaureate degree. Additionally, they must be monitored by a certified teacher during the first two years of home instruction. This monitoring will continue if at any time, the child's test scores on required achievement tests fall below the 50th percentile. However, this type of requirement is rare. In fact, in more than 20 states, no certification or even qualification is required (HSLDA, 2004).
The problem with this inequality of standards is that many state athletic associations now require schools participating in sports programs to adhere to the new Title I regulations (HSLDA, 2004). In these cases, even school districts willing to allow home educated athletes are unable to do so. Often, association rules are created to disallow undereducated or failing students access to extracurricular activities. If a school were to accept home schooled athletes, they would be violating Title I, and thus, would often lose the sports programs entirely.
Still another argument against home educated students gaining equal participation rights in terms of interscholastic activities is that of liability. Many institutions are concerned that allowing home schooled students onto their sports teams opens the door for lawsuits if the student were to be injured in a game. In many cases, liability insurance for high school sports is limited to only those students attending the institution full time (Home School Sports Network, 2000). In the event that a home schooled student was injured, the liability insurance would not cover the medical needs of the student. In these cases, the districts are virtually unable to force parents of home schooled students to sign liability wavers, for fear of legal action claiming discrimination. At the same time, if the districts were to increase their coverage to cover anyone using the sports facility, each student, whether an attendee of the school or a home schooled student, would be required to pay an insurance fee to play. This discriminates against public school students who would normally not have to pay such a fee.
Even some parents of home schooled students disagree with the concept of equal participation laws, at least on a state or Federal level. Part of the desire for home schooling is to avoid any governmental influence or regulation on the education of the children involved. For some, this is a choice based on religious beliefs, while for others; it is a matter of privacy. In both cases, forcing the government to allow equal participation would also allow the government to begin regulating home schooling (HSLDA, 2004). Additionally, some fear that by allowing the government to regulate equal participation regulations, those previously opposed to government intervention will be more likely to accept even further interference, if that interference is presented in relation to equal participation.
Even coaches, athletic instructors, and superintendents who are noted for their support of equal participation do note some drawbacks to these regulations. In Pennsylvania for example, where recent legislation aims to force equal participation in over 500 schools, Superintendent Gerald Huesken of the Conestoga Valley School District noted one particular area of concern. Huesken's district has allowed home educated students to participate in activities for four years, and admits that it has worked well. However, he also noted a problem with enrollment figures in relation to class assignment for sporting events. According to Huesken, if the district allows four home educated students to participate in football, the district must count all home schooled children in their enrollment calculations (Meadows, 2005). If there are 300 home schooled students within the district, this could drastically alter the district's competition, since they would be considered in a larger class group. For smaller districts with already limited resources and funding, this alteration could easily reduce the number of wins for a team, resulting in an even further loss of support and morale.
In spite of all the issues against allowing for equal participation, there are a growing number of individuals who support the idea. Their arguments are as varied as those in opposition are, but are equally compelling, and in some cases, have been upheld in a court of law. One such argument stems from the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In accordance with that clause, some believe that denying children the right to participate discriminates against them, thereby violating their right to equal protection (HSLDA, 2004). While this argument has certainly been struck down in some courts,…