Q: I heard a bill just passed that would allow homeschool students to participate in district UIL activities. Are we now required to let homeschool students participate in our UIL activities?
A: No. HB 547, also known as the “Tim Tebow Bill,” gives school districts the option to allow homeschool students to participate in UIL activities as representatives of the school for which their residence is zoned but does not require it.
HB 547 adds Texas Education Code section 33.0832 which provides districts with the choice of allowing homeschool students to participate in UIL activities effective with the start of the 2021-2022 school year. A homeschool student is eligible to participate with a school district “that the student would be eligible to attend based on the student’s residential address.” Proof of residency must be provided to the district in the same manner as required for student enrollment.
A school board would make this election by local policy, likely to be a component of TASB’s soon to be released Update 118. Importantly, if a district elects to allow homeschool students to participate, the homeschool student is subject to relevant policies that apply to enrolled students such as registration for UIL activities, age eligibility, fees, insurance, transportation, physical condition, qualifications, responsibilities, event schedules, standards of behavior and performance. Homeschool students participating in UIL activities are also subject to the same immunization requirements and exceptions as enrolled students. Additionally, a homeschool student is not authorized to participate in a UIL activity during the remainder of a school year in which the student was previously enrolled in a public school.
Parents continue to be responsible for the oversight of academic standards. However, to participate, a homeschool student must demonstrate grade-level academic proficiency (a composite, core, or survey score that is within average or higher than average range of scores) on any nationally recognized, norm-referenced assessment instrument during the first six weeks of the school year. The test must have been administered in the current or immediately preceding school year. After the first six weeks, the parent must “provide written verification . . . indicating that the student is receiving a passing grade in each course or subject being taught” in accordance with the school’s grading calendar.
For specific questions or additional information regarding homeschool student participation in UIL activities, please consult with your local school law attorney.