Senate bills take aim at MSHSAA home school policy

March 11, 2023


Missouri news network


JEFFERSON CITY — Judah, Matthew, Lydia and Melody Meredith made the three-hour trek to Jefferson City Tuesday morning with their mother Melisha to testify in support of bills that would make it easier for them to participate in school sports.

Melisha Meredith has home-schooled her children for the last 10 years. She said current Missouri State High School Activities Association policy that requires home school students to take at least two in-person classes to participate in school activities has reduced her children’s opportunities.

“It’s just been a frustrating experience for our family because I feel like we have a lot to offer the community and we’ve always been involved in the community, but now I feel like at this point, we’re being separated from the community,” she said. “We’re just trying to advocate not only for our family, but for other non-traditional and home school students in the state.”

Two bills before the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee would restrict school districts from being a member of “any statewide activities association” that does not allow home school students to try out for or participate in sports and activities the district offers.

Sen. Ben Brown, R-Washington, spells out in Senate Bill 411 that districts also may not join an association that requires home school students to take a class to participate in a sport or activity. Senate Bill 230, sponsored by Sen. Jill Carter, R-Granby, carves out a small exception if the class is “directly related” to the sport or activity.

Thirteen-year-old Judah Meredith said this is the last year he can compete in wrestling before MSHSAA regulations force him out. He said the Joplin area where he lives does not have competitive club teams like St. Louis and Kansas City do, and his lack of options would make it difficult for him to earn scholarships or compete in college.

Eight-year-old Melody Meredith, the youngest sibling, said playing soccer helps her stay healthy and make friends.

“You have heard from my three older siblings that they’re not allowed to play sports,” she said. “If nothing happens about this, I also will not be able to play the sport that I love.”

Jonah Spieker, a 16-year-old home-schooled student, is able to play for Webb City’s football team because he takes the requisite two classes a day. However, many schools around him completely forbid home school students from participating in activities.

“You have the power to change the lives of school athletes across the state,” Spieker said. “I’ve worked on this issue for years, and I would love to see it cross the finish line.”

Timothy Faber of the Missouri Baptist Convention pointed out that parents who home-school their children help to fund public school programs with their property taxes, and therefore their children have a right to participate.

Carter, sponsor of one of the bills, said the issue of granting home-school students access to public school activities has generated bipartisan support in the past.

No one testified in opposition to either bill.