Home School Court Report
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VOLUME XXI, NUMBER 6
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November / December 2005


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ACROSS THE STATES

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WEST VIRGINIA

State court reverses sports decision

On July 6, 2005, with two justices dissenting, the West Virginia Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that had ordered officials to permit homeschool students to participate on public school sports teams. This returns West Virginia to the status quo and means homeschool students are not allowed to compete on public school teams.

In December 2002, Daniel and Christie Jones filed suit against state and local school officials and the state high school sports association after they were told their homeschooled son could not wrestle on a public school team. The following September, Judge Louis Bloom of the Kanawha County Circuit Court ruled the defendants had violated state law and the state constitution. He ordered them to allow the Joneses' son to wrestle on the team.

During a period of intense media attention, the family's attorney publicly stated that ". . . homeschooled children in West Virginia are still part of the public education system." Since homeschoolers have worked years to establish and protect their independence from the government education system, this statement caused concern in the homeschool community. Home School Legal Defense Association responded that the attorney's statement was incorrect, pointing out that homeschooled children are privately educated at home and not part of the public education system.

The supreme court majority opinion seemed to vindicate HSLDA's position when Justice Davis wrote, ". . . the parents of home-schooled children have voluntarily chosen not to participate in the free public school system in order to educate their children at home" (italics in the original).

The supreme court said that the status quo does not violate homeschoolers' right to equal protection under the West Virginia Constitution, and that the rule barring homeschooled students is not unreasonable. Finally, they said that the law that requires school superintendents to offer "assistance" and "available resources" to homeschool parents does not require them to permit homeschool students to play on sports teams.

This decision appears to be the end of the road for those wanting the courts to force public schools to open up their sports programs to homeschoolers in West Virginia.

Freedom and dependence are mutually exclusive. By preventing homeschoolers from becoming dependent on government schools for sports opportunities, the court's decision may have the long-term effect of helping to protect our freedom.

Will homeschoolers meet the challenge of providing sports opportunities for their children outside the government education system? HSLDA is confident they will. This decision propels West Virginia home education into an era in which it will be more self-sustaining, more fully functioning, and more independent.

— by Scott A. Woodruff