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April 3, 2007

Homeschool bill revisited

A bill in the State Legislature this week could allow homeschooled students to participate in public-school, extracurricular activities.

The bill was introduced recently by Sen. Henry E. “Hank” Erwin, R-Alabaster. It is expected to be introduced in the House soon by either local Rep. Jeremy Oden, R-Vinemont, or Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden.

Oden said Tuesday he will co-sponsor the bill if he does not introduce it. “Either way, it has my full support,” he said.

If approved by both Houses and the governor, the bill will allow students who are homeschooled to participate in extracurricular sports and athletics.

Since its introduction, it has been unofficially dubbed the Tim Tebow bill in honor of the Florida Gators quarterback who helped lead his team to a BCS National Championship over Ohio State this year.

The fifth child of Christian missionaries, Tebow was homeschooled throughout his pre-college education, but was allowed to participate in his school district’s athletic programs under Florida law.

While in high school, he and his mother took an apartment in St. Augustine, Fla., allowing him to play quarterback for Allen D. Nease Senior High School. He led the team to a state title his senior year.

In 2006, Tebow rejected a recruitment offer from the University of Alabama — despite communicating several times with then coach Mike Shula — and signed with Florida.

Despite Tebow’s success, Alabama lawmakers have declined to enact a similar legislation in the past. In 2006, a similar bill died in committee.

Concerns included whether homeschooled students would overwhelm the athletic system, whether they were up to academic standards and what the overall cost would be.

Other concerns included liability insurance and the possibility ineligible athletes would use homeschooling to get back on the team.

Oden said lawmakers are still working on parts of the bill to help answer the questions.

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