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Article of Interest - Home Schools

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Bridges4Kids LogoHome Schoolers Do Not Have Right to Play on HS Teams: Michigan Court of Appeals
Gongwer News Service, March 3, 2004
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Home schooled students do not have a right to play for sports teams of schools in the districts in which they live, a unanimous panel of the Court of Appeals has ruled, rejecting arguments that the policies by schools and a state athletic association violate equal protection and religious freedom rights of the students.

The unanimous panel, affirming the Washtenaw Circuit Court, said the policy serves a legitimate purpose of preventing recruiting at the high school level and affected all students equally (Reid v. Kenowa Hills Public Schools, COA docket No. 239473).

In addition to Kenowa Hills, the lawsuit by several parents of home-schooled children was brought against Ypsilanti Public Schools, Caro Community Schools, Grandville Public Schools, Tuscola Intermediate Schools, Pinckney Community Schools and the Michigan High School Athletic Association. The Michigan Association of School Boards filed a brief on behalf of the districts.

The districts' policies required students to be enrolled in school for at least 20 hours per week, a standard consistent with compliance with the Michigan High School Athletic Association, which sets voluntary rules for interscholastic competition. The MHSAA rules permit students enrolled at a school without extracurricular sports to participate on teams in another school as long as they pass the 20 credit hour standard.

The standard is designed to prevent recruiting of athletes between schools, but in addition to religious discrimination, the parents said the rule violates equal protection by undermining the chances of their children to receive college athletic scholarships

In addition to finding no religious or equal protection discrimination, Judge Stephen Borrello, joined by Judge Patrick Meter, said state laws do not require the schools to allow students who are not enrolled to take part in sports programs. Judge Michael Talbot concurred in the result.

The state Supreme Court has ruled-in the context of laws banning public aid to nonpublic schools-that students at nonpublic schools without certain extracurricular activities, such as band, must be permitted to enroll in the public school activity because it was a non-core class in which a student has a statutory right to enroll. It said state law requires schools to cooperate with students to develop their intellectual capacities and vocational skills, and that sports, unlike non-core classes, are not part of the required curriculum.

"But plaintiffs have not asserted that interscholastic sports develop either their children's intellectual capacities or vocational skills," the court said. "The Court did not opine or even suggest that nonpublic school students were entitled to participate in extracurricular interscholastic athletic events, and nothing in (its) opinion dictates that conclusion.

Unlike a state requirement that all students be taught by certified teachers that the Supreme Court found did violate religious rights, the sports rules do not inescapably compel conduct that the parents find objectionable for religious reasons, the Court of Appeals said.

"Rather, by exercising their right to practice their religion through homeschooling their children, plaintiffs made a choice between homeschooling their children and having them participate in extracurricular interscholastic athletic competition," the court said. It added participation in the extracurricular teams runs counter to stated beliefs to minimize the influence of other world views.


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