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Wisconsin

August 3, 2015

Graveyard for Dreams No More

Scott Woodruff Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff helps members and advocates for homeschool freedom in your state. He and his wife homeschooled their children.
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Wisconsin was a graveyard for the hopes and dreams of many aspiring homeschool athletes until just recently. Here’s what happened.

A Wisconsin state lawmaker wrote language into this year’s budget bill that would require public schools to let homeschoolers try out for sports teams. That would have done the job, but the measure went on and prohibited public schools from joining any association that did not uphold the rights of homeschoolers seeking to participate in sports. Feelings ran high both for and against, but the legislature saw the wisdom of the idea and passed the measure.

All eyes then focused on what the governor would do. Governor Scott Walker used his line-item veto power to snip out just one part of the bill—the part prohibiting public schools from joining certain associations—and then signed the bill.

Association Interpretation

Since the part of the bill mandating that public schools allow homeschoolers to try out for teams was not vetoed, HSLDA sent out a bulletin informing families of their new rights and offering support. But the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) and one other organization promptly announced that “nothing had changed.” They said that even with the enactment of the bill, a homeschool student could not try out for a team unless he or she enrolled as a full-time public school student. They said, in effect, that a homeschooler must stop being a homeschooler to participate.

As this clear defiance of the new law became widely known, the Wisconsin Legislative Council (lawyers who assist Wisconsin lawmakers) stepped in. They wrote a memo to a lawmaker saying that the new law requires public schools to allow homeschool athletes to try out regardless of the few lines the governor snipped out, and regardless of whatever the WIAA might do.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott A. Woodruff wrote a letter to the WIAA highlighting that access to sports was now a legally enforceable right. He urged them quickly to bring their rules into compliance with state law and offered to assist them. In a follow-up phone call with Woodruff, WIAA representative Wade Labecki telegraphed that WIAA did not want a court fight.

Homeschoolers Win

Five days later the WIAA did the right thing. It sent out a bulletin to public schools advising them that they must honor the rights of homeschool athletes, and suspending its rule that only full-time public school students could play on teams.

Homeschool students in southeast Wisconsin may have little interest in this new right. The Southeast Wisconsin Christian Home Athletics league is already available to them. But for students in other parts of the state, this measure will allow them to continue their homeschool program and breathe fresh life into their athletic aspirations.

While HSLDA and Wisconsin Christian Home Educators Association, our Wisconsin partner, were neutral while the measure was pending, with its enactment we now stand ready to help homeschool families who desire access to sports and extracurricular activities under the new law. HSLDA has already helped one young homeschool athlete achieve access to a public school football program.

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Protect Your Family and Homeschooling

If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support enables us to defend individual families threatened by government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now >>