Beginning this fall, homeschoolers will be allowed to participate on high school sports teams in Indiana - provided they enroll in at least one class at a given school and meet other academic criteria. The Indiana High School Athletic Association made that determination Monday, two years after the issue was taken up and then dropped by the state's General Assembly. The new rule, effective with the 2013-14 school year, also applies to students at non-accredited private schools.
"The IHSAA has always been about participation," IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox told the Evansville Courier & Press before Monday's vote. "This is a chance to extend that opportunity to participate. We aren't grounded in not allowing homeschooled students to play. Now, they can choose to play under these conditions, or they can choose not to. They have a choice."
Some estimates place the number of homeschooled students in Indiana at more than 33,000 - far more than in, say, West Virginia, but significantly fewer than in other midwestern states like Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. Approximately half of all states allow homeschooled students to participate in high school sports in some way, but athletics administrators have expressed concerns about the IHSAA's decision.
"There's so much social interaction and reasons for kids to get involved outside the classroom," Jon Zwitt, athletic director at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind., told the Courier & Press. "If all of a sudden there was a student that was outside the building and just showed up at the end of the school day, it makes it difficult because it's like an outsider coming in. I think over time they would be accepted, but it would just be different, and the students would have to get through that."
According to TheStatehouseFile.com, homeschooled students in Indiana must - in addition to being enrolled for a minimum of one class per day - pass a physical exam, participate in the required number of practices for the sport, have been homeschooled for at least the past three years, and complete all standardized tests required of public school students and submit grade information.