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News Brief

Jan. 1, 2024 |  By: Annelise Hanshaw - Missouri Independent

Bill would open Missouri public school sports to homeschool students


By Annelise Hanshaw - Missouri Independent

A bill to allow home-educated students to participate in Missouri public school activities is back for the upcoming legislative session — and has been coupled with provisions rolling back state oversight of homeschooling families.

Sen. Ben Brown, a Washington Republican, pre-filed a 52-page bill that largely resembles the version he sponsored that cleared the Senate last session.

While it initially was only two pages and focused on giving homeschool kids the opportunity to play sports and join clubs in public schools, it now would add a new category for home-educated students and rescind attendance officers’ authority over homeschool families.

“As a former athlete myself whose childhood was greatly impacted by my participation in the sport of wrestling, I feel strongly that it is wrong to deny these potentially life-changing opportunities to children,” Brown told the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee during a March hearing.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association policy is to allow homeschooled students to participate in their local school districts’ sports if they are enrolled in at least one credit hour of instruction, which is typically two classes in non-block-scheduled schools. School districts are allowed to be more restrictive and ban homeschool participation.

Brown’s bill would prohibit schools from requiring enrollment in classes, but any instruction or training required for the club or sport would still be allowed.

No one testified in opposition to the bill in March, but that was expanded to remove local oversight of homeschooling families.


State Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, a Kansas City Democrat, said what concerns her about the legislation is “simply not knowing which students are being homeschooled.”

“It’s imperative… that when parents make the decision to homeschool their child, we have some reporting procedures in place so that we know which students are actually being homeschooled,” she said in an interview with The Independent.

The bill would remove a section of state law that says families “may provide…  a declaration of enrollment stating their intent for the child to attend a home school” to the local school district or the county recorder of deeds.

Kim Quon, a regional director for the Missouri homeschool advocacy organization Families for Home Education, told The Independent that the statute’s wording “causes confusion for everybody.”

She said the declaration of enrollment is optional because the law says they “may provide” that document. Quon recommends families notify a school in writing if a child is homeschooled, but some have felt obligated to do this by school administrators.

The bill also would rescind a law allowing attendance officers to investigate compliance with the state’s compulsory attendance law. The law requires home schools to offer at least 1,000 hours of instruction, with at least 600 of those in core subjects like reading and math.

Quon said families document their hours of learning but do not submit that information for review.

“We don’t submit our hours,” she said. “It’s not anybody’s business.”

She is also opposed to attendance officers checking on homeschooling families, saying: “There just doesn’t need to be that level of scrutiny.”

School attendance officers and the Department of Social Services’s Children’s Division can assess whether a child is being neglected after being removed from public school.

A study from the state of Connecticut’s Office of the Child Advocate found that 36% of families that pulled their children out of public school in a three-year period had at least one accepted report of child abuse or neglect. A majority had multiple reports of abuse or neglect.

Quon said the Children’s Division could still investigate instances of neglect, but she is worried attendance officers may abuse their power.

The Independent asked if she heard of attendance officers investigating families that are tracking hours and homeschooling.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m not aware of this happening too terribly much. But the fact that it’s there leaves that option for anybody to do that.”

Homeschooled athletes

Quon said homeschooling families have different reactions to the idea of their kids in public-school sports and clubs.

Some value the privacy of being detached from the school district while others desire access to the amenities their tax dollars help pay for.

Brown’s bill could help alleviate some homeschooling families’ privacy concerns, said Zeke Spieker, legislative assistant to Sen. Jill Carter, a Republican from Granby. Carter testified in favor of Brown’s bill in March.

“There’s always a concern that when you give school students access to these activities that there are going to be some strings attached that would cause a loss of homeschool freedom,” Spieker said. “So last year, in an effort to try to assuage some of those concerns, they created the FLEX category.”

Brown’s bill calls for the defining of “FLEX schools,” or family-led educational experience schools. The differences between FLEX students and homeschool students are that FLEX students can participate in public-school activities and obtain K-12 scholarships through the state’s MOScholars tax-credit program.

Spieker, who was homeschooled himself, said some homeschooling families are still concerned about the FLEX language.

He and his family have talked with home educators for years and made trips to the Missouri Capitol to ask for the ability to play in public school sports.

Spieker said he’s watched opportunities for homeschooled children grow during his family’s advocacy. His brother Jonah, a high-school senior, was homeschooled but played on Webb City’s football team.

Quon said the bill could benefit students further away from Missouri’s major cities the most, where there aren’t many options outside of public school activities.

She said the Families for Home Education’s position on the legislation is “neutral as long as nobody does anything crazy with the bill.”

Last legislative session, the bill expanded in a House committee to include provisions about four-day school weeks, school board vacancies, foster-child enrollment and other education matters. It was never debated on the House floor.

Nurrenbern said the amendments will likely determine the bill’s fate.

“There will be hopefully some good amendments that can be attached to this and make it,” she said. “If there’s more good than bad in the bill, I think it will pass.”