A hot topic in last year’s legislative session was the “Tim Tebow Act”. This year’s legislative session was fairly quiet on the issue. In fact, SB 6, specifically called the “Creating Tim Tebow Act,” never left the Senate Education Committee. The only real discussion this session on the topic surrounded HB 2196, which provided for home-school student participation; however, that all changed during the final two days of the session.

Originally, HB 2196 only dealt with the participation of “home school students.” On March 28, HB 2196 passed the House. At no time did the House have discussion in either committee or floor as to other currently ineligible students, such as those attending private or parochial schools. If there was discussion, no amendments were adopted. The House’s version of HB 2196 dealt solely with the inclusion of “home school students” subject to certain limitations.

HB 2196 crossed over to the Senate on March 28. On April 6, the Senate Education Committee made significant amendments to HB 2196 to make “students who are enrolled in a registered private or parochial school that does not have a sporting team” eligible for participation. The following day, a Senate floor amendment was adopted to read and include in participation “students who are enrolled in a registered private or parochial school that does not have interscholastic programs.”

On the final session day, the full Senate voted (23-10) and approved HB 2196, which permits, subject to certain requirements, participation by home-school students, and “students who are enrolled in a registered private or parochial school that does not have interscholastic programs.” Following the Senate’s vote, HB 2196 was sent to the House to concur (given the Senate’s inclusion of registered private and parochial school students). The House did concur (51-48), and now HB 2196 will head to the governor. (Note: our neighboring governor of Virginia recently vetoed the Tim Tebow Act.)

HB 2196, as passed, creates some questions. For example:

  • What does “registered private or parochial school” mean?
  • Does “registered private or parochial school” mean a WVSSAC member school?
  • If so, does HB 2196 mean that the if the “registered private or parochial school” has a interscholastic program, such as boys and girls basketball only, that the students would be prohibited from participating in the local public education high school’s interscholastic programs (such as football), because the registered private or parochial school has “interscholastic programs.”
  • If “registered” does not mean WVSSAC member school, what does it mean?
  • Does “registered” mean a non-public school exemption (k) or (b) schools that have met the criteria in WVDE 2330 (some of which are actually WVSSAC member schools)? Some of these “registered” schools have “interscholastic programs” (let’s say basketball but not football), so would that exclude a student from participating in a public education WVSSAC member school’s football program?
  • What does “interscholastic programs” mean? Does that only mean WVSSAC regulated and sanctioned programs (sport and band)? Can home-school, private or parochial students participate in all extracurricular activities (i.e., archery) or just “interscholastic programs” (SSAC regulated)?
  • If a public education WVSSAC member school does not have a certain “interscholastic program,” can that public education student participate in the “registered private or parochial school” program should that entity have such a program that is sanctioned by the WVSSAC?
  • Will county school systems see current and future public education students now enrolling in “registered private or parochial schools” given the student can now participate in public education interscholastic programs even though not enrolled in the public school?