Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

January 25, 2012

Extracurricular activities out for home-schooled students

CROSSVILLE — While a state athletic association has changed its rules to allow students receiving home school instruction to participate in public school extracurricular activities, the Cumberland County Board of Education policy committee is recommending a proposed policy keep a provision that would not allow that to happen.

"The principals feel strongly that if they're not participating in the academic part, then it shouldn't be opened up for the extracurricular part," Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle told the committee.

A previous recommendation had called for removing the statement, "Home school students shall not participate in any regular school extra curricular activities."

When the policy was presented to the full board for approval on first reading, 7th District Representative David Bowman requested the policy committee take another look at the policy based on concerns from parents, principals and coaches.

VanWinkle said the principals had asked that statement be included.

Jim Blalock, 8th District representative, asked if the system would be running afoul of state law. VanWinkle said the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association only gave local systems the option of changing their policies to allow home school participation in sports and other activities, provided the students met the requirements of the TSSAA, but it was not a requirement. Also, the change only applies to hoome schools which are conducted or directed by a parent or parents or legal guardian or guardians. Those students attending a home school affiliated with an umbrella organization are not covered by the bylaw change.

"I cannot give students permission because the board has a policy," VanWinkle said. "That's just an option."

VanWinkle said objections included the fact public school students had to meet attendance requirements and grade point average requirements that home school students would not be subject to.

"To participate, a student cannot be absent the day an activity is taking place," VanWinkle said. "They can't come in tardy after 11:16 a.m. or leave before 11:16 to participate. They've got to be there on time and they've got to participate in the school day. There's no control over that if they're home schooled."

Another concern is the limited funds provided the schools for extracurricular activities, so schools make up the difference with fund raisers and other activities. Home school students would not be a part of the school community and therefore not taking part in the fund-raising activities.

The committee agreed to return the policy to the full board for consideration on first reading with the approved change.

Also up for first reading is the revised random drug testing policy for students taking part in extracurricular activities. The policy would call for random drug testing of a set percentage of students in all extracurricular activities, including sports, academics, band and special interest clubs.

The policy includes provisions that students who refuse to be tested are to be suspended from extracurricular activities for one year. Also, if a student tests positive, parents or guardians would be notified and the student would have the option of completing participation in an assistance program with additional testing, as often as once a week, for up to six weeks. These tests would be at the expense of the parent or guardian. If the student tests positive again, it would be considered a second offense. If the student does not test positive, he or she could continue to participate in extracurricular activities.

A second offense would find a student suspended from participation for one calendar year and also be referred to an assistance program.

If a student tests positive on random drug screens three times, the student would not be eligible to participate in any extracurricular activity in Cumberland County Schools for the remainder of his or her attendance.

The policy would include students in seventh through twelfth grade.

"This is not a 'gotcha,'" said VanWinkle. "That's not what this is about."

Blalock said, "How many students can we stop from even starting with this policy?"

The committee agreed to recommend the policy to the full board for approval on first reading.

Policies must be approved on two readings before becoming effective. If approved, the random drug testing policy would not begin until the 2012-'13 school year.

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