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West Virginia

June 22, 2004

Court Opens Public School Sports to Homeschoolers

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has unanimously decided to let stand an order from Kanawha County Judge Louis Bloom requiring the West Virginia State Board of Education to permit homeschool students to play on public school sports teams.

An eleven-year-old homeschool boy in Marion County wanted to join the wrestling team at his local middle school. Although the school and the wrestling coach supported him, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) refused. His parents filed suit against WVSSAC, the West Virginia State Board of Education, the state Superintendent of Education, the Marion County Board of Education and the Marion County Superintendent.

On September 23, 2003, Judge Bloom ruled that WVSSAC's rule prohibiting homeschoolers from playing on public school sports teams violated the equal protection guarantee in the West Virginia constitution, exceeded the statutory authority of WVSSAC, and was arbitrary and capricious. He ordered the defendants to draw up reasonable rules allowing homeschool students to have the opportunity to play on public school teams. The defendants appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, which rejected their appeal without comment on May 26, 2004.

Shortly after the Supreme Court's decision, the attorney who represented the family wrote a letter that has been circulated in which he said, among other things, "...homeschooled children in West Virginia are still part of the public education system." HSLDA disagrees with this statement. Homeschooled children are privately educated and have only minor contact with the public school system.

Officials in some counties may refuse to follow Judge Bloom's order on the theory that it only applies to Marion county, where the case originated. If you encounter such an official, please contact us. Judge Bloom's order is now the law, and it should be followed.