The Wall Township Board of Education on Tuesday began a discussion on whether to allow home-schooled children in the district to participate in school-sponsored athletics.
The discussion was first taken up by the board’s Policy Committee, but members were deadlocked 2-2 on whether to allow home-schoolers to participate in school sports competitions, committee head Joseph Tonzola said.
Tonzola kicked the discussion up to the whole committee, which debated the issue for about 30 minutes. No resolution was met. The Policy Committee will again take up the issue at its next meeting. No date was set Tuesday.
The issue stems from a November letter from the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association— the organization that oversees public school sports — that decided to allow home-schoolers to participate in NJIAA sports events if the local board of education approved it and the school and the home school parent complied with the organization’s new guidelines.
It is a discussion that is taking place in school districts throughout the state, Tonzola said.
“They are in the same quandary we are,’’ Tonzola said. “Some of them are saying ‘yes’ some of them are saying ‘no,’ and some are putting it on hold to come back for further discussion.’’
In Brick, the issue was taken up in November and proved controversial.
Board member Deidra Kukuka said she was concerned primarily about how to assess the academic eligibility of a home-schooled student. Students in the district are tested and the benchmarks for academic progress are clearly defined, Kukucka said, but are less transparent with pupils who are home-schooled, who are not evaluated by the district.
“I don’t know where you get that piece of information,’’ Kukucka said. “That would be my primary concern.’’
Tonzola, without mentioning the name of the district, talked about Brick’s position that an incoming home-schooler must provide a portfolio of work and take a test to prove their academic equivalency with their public school counterparts.
Board President John Tavis said there could be positives in allowing home-schoolers to participate in athletics.
“I was concerned that these students may not be getting the education they should get,’’ Tavis said. “But possibly, if they were involved in sports that they would be held – as Joe (Tonzola) mentioned with all athletes – to a higher criteria. So I think that could be a possible plus.’’
Michael Gross, board attorney, said issues such as this often operate in a spectrum and that the state was moving away from an absolute position where home-schoolers were not allowed to participate in athletics to a place where now local boards could decide whether to allow participation.
“Down the road, I do believe inevitably they will permit them,’’ Gross said.
Board member Ann Moonan said the committee also talked, again without a firm decision, on what other types of activities the district may or may not open up to other students, such as school plays and other extra-curricular activities.