NIAA embraces home-school athletes
After two years of consideration, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association voted June 19 to reverse its policy that banned home-school athletes from participating in public school sports.
The vote comes at a time when shrinking enrollment at school districts lake-wide has been taking a toll on athletic programs.
The vote clarifies a Nevada statue that stated Nevada school districts must open classes, extracurricular activities, programs of special education and related services to home-school students, but not sports.
The NIAA decided against fighting the statute through the state legislature and opted to rewrite its policy to include home-school students if they meet the necessary criteria.
“We reviewed policy from other states … and came up with one that we thought would fit in Nevada,” said Jerry A. Hughes, executive director of the NIAA.
Hughes said the previous policy banned home-school students mainly because “a lot of our principals and superintendents felt that if (home- school students) didn’t want to go to a public school, then they shouldn’t have the activities (of a public school).”
Home-school parents held that if they paid taxes, their children had a right to participate in public sports.
The NIAA was never challenged over its policy.
The new policy was put to a vote and passed by the NIAA governing board. The actual number of votes was unavailable Tuesday.
The decision affects all schools that participate in the NIAA-sanctioned sports.
No figures were available Monday as to how many home-school students will be affected by the decision.
But the number isn’t an important one for Bo Hallam, of South Lake Tahoe.
Hallam, 13, would be a freshman at South Tahoe High School this fall, but he’s chosen to take his lessons at home.
That decision would have been more difficult since Hallam has become a star baseball player with the 13-year-old South Tahoe Babe Ruth All Stars.
Since joining the team he’s seen his game improve, and he thinks that trend will continue if he’s able to play high school-level ball.
“I want to be able to play baseball and see how far I could go with it,” Hallam said. “(The NIAA policy) will definitely give me more time to play when I get to high school.”
Hallam would have opted to play for a club, or traveling team if he was banned from the public high school team.
The NIAA will meet with schools from around the state on Wednesday to notify them of the change in policy and explain how the eligibility criteria works.
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