A bill that allows parents to determine whether their children who are educated at home are eligible to participate in athletics and activities in public schools passed favorably out of the Senate Education Committee with a 4-3 vote.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, wrote the bill in hopes of providing a statewide standard for how public schools determine whether home-schooled students are eligible to participate in extracurricular activities. Currently, home-schooled students can and do participate in public school programs with each school or district judging who meets academic requirements.

"This removes the last vestiges of discriminatory practices," Madsen told the committee Monday morning.

But members of the Utah High School Activities Association argued against the bill because they say it creates an entirely different type of discrimination.

"This creates a statutory exemption for one class of students," said Mark Van Wagoner, the UHSAA's attorney. "There is absolutely no barrier for any home-school student to participate in public school activities. That (option) already exists and has for a very long time."

While no one argues that home-school students are allowed to participate in high school sports and activities, there is sharp disagreement over how eligibility should be determined and by whom.

Van Wagoner acknowledged that currently individual schools and districts determine how those home school students hoping to participate in extracurricular activities demonstrate academic proficiency. He said they are most often asked to submit a portfolio of work, but sometimes students take a test to gain eligibility or are allowed to submit an affidavit from the parent teaching the child assuring he or she is academically sound.

Madsen said his bill will eliminate the different standard from school to school. Instead, he said the bill will establish a single requirement, which is an affidavit from the parent or family member teaching the child saying the student is mastering the material or course in each subject that is taught and that the student is maintaining satisfactory progress.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, made the motion to pass the bill out favorably. Before he did so, it was amended so that students who are deemed ineligible in a traditional school and then move to a home-school setting, will have to resolve the reason for ineligibility before they can be deemed eligible for activities.

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