Jeff and Michele Shearin are homeschool parents whose sons are gifted athletes. To help their boys showcase their talents in hopes of earning college scholarships, the Shearins signed them up for the swim team at a local public school.
In South Carolina, homeschoolers are eligible to participate in their local public school’s interscholastic activities. Many school districts also allow students to choose which school to attend within their district.
With this provision in mind, the Shearin boys chose not to join the swim team at the school they were zoned for, but instead signed up at another public school that was closer to their home.
However, the South Carolina High School League (the governing and leadership body for interscholastic athletic programs across the entire state) has policies that have proven difficult in cases like this. The league interprets its bylaws to mean homeschoolers are only eligible at the public school that their address is zoned for. According to this interpretation, homeschoolers cannot participate in the transfer program which public schoolers enjoy.
Home School Legal Defense Association represented the Shearin family in an administrative hearing. Our local counsel in South Carolina, Tim Newton, argued before the high school league administrative board on August 7, and convinced 6 out of 14 board members that the Shearins’ children should be allowed to participate in the school athletic programs. While significant, the 6 yea votes weren’t enough to OK the transfer.
Thankfully, a week later, the league’s appellate panel reversed the decision in a 5 to 1 vote, allowing the Shearins to swim for the school they desired. In an email to the family a couple of days later, the school confirmed that they were “looking forward to having your students be a part of our program.”
Michele thanked us for our assistance and urged us to share her family’s story to encourage others. “Please let everyone know the power we have under our constitution to fight!” she said.
HSLDA does not take a stance on whether homeschool students should be allowed to participate in public school activities. However, in states where the law does permit such participation, we will fight to uphold that right for homeschool families.