(WBIR-Knox County) While several districts across East Tennessee had allowed home schoolers to play for TSSAA teams since 2011, a law that went into effect in July now requires all districts in the state to allow qualified home schoolers to tryout for teams.
Thursday marked the deadline for parents and guardians of home schoolers to register their children with the home school office within their district. They have until August 15th to notify the school their children want to participate in an athletics program.
On Facebook, many 10News viewers expressed their opinions. Some parents who home school their children, like Michelle Ferguson, said the requirement is fair.
"We think it's fair, especially because they get to try out. So they might not make the team, and that's great because we teach our kids that you know, the best man gets the job. And so as long as they get the chance to try out, we're happy with that," said Ferguson.
Ferguson's children, ages nine, four, and one-month, would go to Gibbs High School if they were not home schooled. Gibbs High School, along with all of Knox County Schools, have allowed home schoolers who meet the requirements to try out for TSSAA teams since 2011.
"There's not been as much interest as I thought there would be. As a matter of fact, I think in three years, I've only had one inquiry," said Jeff Thomas, the athletic director at Gibbs High School. "We're happy to have anybody that wants to contribute."
Loudon County and Lenoir City Schools have had the same policy since 2011 as well.
Alcoa City Schools and Sevier County Schools did not allow home schoolers to try out until the law went into effect in July, 2013.
"We've had a couple of inquiries. The last time I checked, about a week ago, only a couple of home schoolers were interested," said officials with Sevier County Schools.
"We've had zero interest," said the athletic director at Alcoa High School.
State Representative Roger Kane, who carried the bill, said the change will not have a major impact on schools across the state.
"The requirements are very strict. It only applies to truly independent home schoolers, where they are home schooled by their mom and dad," said Kane. "Most home schoolers are under an umbrella program, where they have to register their grades and file them with the state. If you're under an umbrella program, you aren't eligible."
Kane said about 70% of the 48,000 home school students in the state are under an umbrella program. He said last year, about 20 home school teens played for a TSSAA team, and expects that number to only jump to 40 or 50 this upcoming school year.
"We're trying to work with TSSAA to help even the playing field," said Kane. "We know most parents choose an umbrella program, so we hope to work on that within the next couple of years."
Home school students must provide proof of insurance, meet grade and attendance requirements, and can only play for the school that they would attend if they were not home schooled.