Children Banned from Private School Sports Teams

High school athletics regulators in Maine banned two home-schooled students from a private school’s track and cross-country teams, requiring them to join their local public school’s athletics program to compete.

Children Banned from Participating in Private Schools’ Sports Teams

Students Douglas and Laura Pelletier, who are home-schooled, participated in the track and cross-country teams at Seacoast Christian School. But Douglas and Laura’s future in interscholastic sports was threatened when the Maine Principals’ Association (MPA) selectively prevented home-schooled students from playing for private schools’ athletic teams.

Under Maine state law, home-schooled children are allowed to play on the teams of both public and private schools. In November of 2002, however, MPA executive director Richard Durost issued a memorandum to MPA member schools, which comprise all of Maine’s public schools and many private schools, that said a private school would jeopardize its eligibility to compete with other MPA schools if home-schooled children played on its athletic teams. Although this conflicted with state law, Durost and the MPA were steadfast in enforcing the new ban. As the MPA regulates high school interscholastic extracurricular activities in Maine, a school’s sports program could be significantly impaired if it violated an MPA policy.

In March of 2003, the Home School Legal Defense Association filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine in Portland, Maine on behalf of the Pelletiers and other Maine home schoolers, arguing that home-schooled children should be allowed to participate in high school sports at private schools. In May of 2003, a judge ruled against the family, forcing the children to go through their local public school if they want to take part in interscholastic sports. The judge ruled that the family’s right to choose private education was not burdened because they had the option to enroll in private or public schools if their children wanted to participate in sports. The Pelletiers have not appealed the decision.

In a letter to the MPA, the Home School Legal Defense Association pinpointed what it believed the issue had always been about: a desire “to give public schools a monopoly on homeschool students who are also athletes.”

Source: Home School Legal Defense Association

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