BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County school system officials are looking at the possibility of allowing home- schooled students to participate in county sports programs.
However, Director of Schools Jubal Yennie, Assistant Director Gene Johnson and Board of Education member Betty Combs expressed strong concerns about changing the policy, although the Policy Committee is to get more information and opinion on the issue at its next meeting.
“It’s worth a conversation, but it’s a bigger issue,” Yennie said Thursday.
The matter came up when a parent went before a BOE meeting earlier this month to ask why the board did not allow home-schooled students to play on county sports teams. The Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association, TSSAA, recently changed it rules to allow local school systems to let home-schooled students on teams.
“There is an agreement among all school systems in Northeast Tennessee that we don’t,” Yennie told the committee. Kingsport also doesn’t allow home-schooled students to participate in sports or any other extracurricular activities, such as band.
“There is a question of liability,” Johnson said. “There possibly would be a cost associated with it.” He said the county’s insurance policy covers students participating in sports, not non-students.
Another issue is discipline, he said. Although home-schooled students could be removed from sports programs for misbehavior, “You can’t suspend somebody who’s not a student.”
Evelyn Rafalowski, supervisor of athletics, said the Three Rivers and Big Seven conferences in which county high schools are involved have agreed not to allow home-school students to play.
BOE member Jack Bales said he sees no reason for the policy change unless letting the home-school students play could somehow add to the school system’s enrollment and thus its Tennessee funding.
Lib Sells, supervisor of student services, and Yennie said the students can’t be counted in average daily attendance or average daily membership numbers unless they are enrolled in classes. Bales asked about advanced classes some home-schoolers might take through the system online.
Sells said many home-schooled students are registered through online schools and not through the school system, often being listed as withdrawn from other school systems in other states but not showing up on any home-schooled student lists.
Yennie said if the matter is to be pursued, it probably should involve contact with a home-schoolers association. In addition, he said the matter needs further input from principals and superintendents in Sullivan County and the region.
“We haven’t had a great deal of interest in that,” Rafalowski said, adding that the question usually comes up about twice a year.
Johnson said another concern is a county school student being bumped from a team by a home-school student.
Sells said that by law the school system special education students being home-schooled are eligible for services from the school system if requested.
Also, the school system serves students from Crossing Point and Sullivan House, but they are enrolled and attend classes.
A pending program, Yennie said, is an agreement with Jacobs Creek Job Corps to enroll some of its students via contract in virtual classes at Sullivan East High School.