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Equal Access for Home Educators

On November 10, 2005, Governor Rendell signed Senate Bill 361 into law. This legislation gives Home Educators equal access to all extra curricular activities subject to the provisions of Section 511 of the PA School Code. These activities include, but are not limited to: athletics, clubs, musical activities, drama productions, etc.

Earlier versions of this bill had detrimental amendments. PHEA Advisory Board members worked closely with legislators to modify language regarding equivalency requirements and to also include language that precludes any school district from creating policies that conflict with current home education law. The law now states that Equal Access policies cannot be in conflict with the homeschool law. A school district with an already existing access policy that conflicts with
Act 169, the Home Education Law, would need to be changed.

For example, a district requiring a student to take a one (1) credit course at the public school, would be in violation with this new legislation. Any demands for additional testing would also be a violation. This new legislation does not require a district to have a written policy. Some districts may choose to handle Equal Access on a case by case basis and may try to implement policy as they see fit. In such instances, home educators need to be aware of their rights within the scope of the law.

PHEA encourages families taking advantage of this new legislation to keep their fellow home educators informed on the process and implementation of SB 361. When working with the school districts, homeschoolers should get the least burdensome policy and avoid over compliance.

This is the text of the new subsection:

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. Section 1327.1 of the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No. 14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, is amended by adding a subsection to read:

(F.1) (1) Beginning January 1, 2006, the school district of residence shall permit a child who is enrolled in a home education program to participate in any activity that is subject to the provisions of Section 511 including, but not limited to, clubs, musical ensembles, athletics and theatrical productions provided that the child:

(I) meets the eligibility criteria, or their equivalent, for participation in the activity that apply to students enrolled in the school district;

(II) meets the try-out criteria, or their equivalent, for participation in the activity that apply to students enrolled in the school district; and

(III) complies with all policies, rules and regulations, or their equivalent, of the governing organization of the activity.

(2) For the purposes of this subsection, the school district of residence´s program of interscholastic athletics, including varsity sports, shall be considered an activity and shall include all activities related to competitive sports contests, games, events or exhibitions involving individual students or teams of students whenever such activities occur between schools within the school district or between schools outside of the school district.

(3) Where the activity requires completion of a physical examination or medical test as a condition of participation and the school district of residence offers such physical examination or medical test to students enrolled in the school district, the school district shall permit a child who is enrolled in a home education program to access such physical examination or medical test. The school district shall publish the dates and times of such physical examination or medical test in a publication of general circulation in the school district and on its publicly accessible Internet website.

(4) A board of school directors may adopt a policy to implement the requirements of this subsection. Such policy shall only apply to participation in activities and shall not conflict with any provisions of this section.

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