Last month, Heath Arnold launched a petition on Causes.com that lead to passing a law, Bill 222, which will allow all home-schooled students to participate in public school sports in Tennessee. According to U.S. News, 7.6 million high school students played sports in the 2010-2011 school year. It’s estimated that more than two million students are home-schooled in the US, and approximately 42,000 of those students are in Heath’s homestate of Tennessee. One of those students is Heath’s 11-year-old son Dawson.
In an interview last week, Heath talked about how invaluable an athletic program can be to home-schooled kids. “It is important to me that home-schooled students be allowed to play sports at public schools for many reasons…there are scholarship opportunities, building friendships, and a sense of belonging,” Heath said.
Heath reached out to other families with home-schooled children and listened to their concerns. With his son only a few years away from high school, Heath learned of a clause in a Tennessee law (Bill 240) that gave schools and school boards final decision over whether to allow home-schooled students access to public school athletic programs. “When [the law was] written, it was intended to give schools the flexibility needed to enforce eligibility requirements such as grades, attendance, try out acceptance, and conduct.” To the dismay of parents, school boards repeatedly began to bar home-schooled kids from playing sports in public schools.
In January of 2013, Heath began writing his Tennessee legislators and sent along signatures from more than 2,300 people on Causes. Legislators began to take notice and were soon drafting Bill 222 to make things clear: home-schooled children could participate in public school athletic programs.
On March 4, 2013, three Tennessee state senators presented Bill 222 which mandated that home-schooled kids could play sports in public schools. The vote was unanimous: 31 yes votes. “I am sure the signatures opened many eyes to the seriousness of this issue. It was not until after I forwarded the [petition] signatures that many responded to my emails and calls. I received an array of responses to my petition by legislators. Some were not interested, some said they would vote in the affirmative, and some would not respond. In this situation, the proof was in the votes. No legislators opposed the bill,” said Heath.
In the end, it all comes down to giving kids the best opportunities to grow and prosper in their communities. “When it comes to children, especially, they should be treated with kindness, love, compassion, and equality.” Great job standing up for what you believe in, Heath!