From the Bench: DeFazio, Manchin Lay Out Thoughts on Legislation Regarding Home Schooled Students

By Jeff Toquinto on January 21, 2018 from Sports Blog via

Vitriol on social media isn’t unusual. You don’t have to scroll too far on any format to find it flowing freely.
As much as we try to monitor comments that get off the rails, we do allow for good healthy debate and even some that gets a little personal. With that in mind, few things got emotions stirred as much as a blog I wrote last year on the so-called “Tim Tebow Bill.”
You remember that one? It’s the one named after the former Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Florida who played high school football while being home schooled. In West Virginia, home schooled student aren’t allowed to participate in public school athletics or extracurricular activities.
Last year, that nearly changed as a bill made it to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice. He vetoed it.
Well before that action took place, I approached the top of the educational food chain in Bridgeport about the subject since the high school offers the most athletic and extracurricular activities. As is always the case with BHS Principal Mark DeFazio, the responses were candid.
That, of course, led to some good debate and a little bit of nasty stuff (and a few items needing deleted due to profanity, which will be deleted again if unable to control the urge) on our Facebook and Twitter platforms. DeFazio, as he always does, just laughed when I reminded him about some of the names he was called and took it in stride. If you know DeFazio, you know he doesn’t take things like being called “the devil” on social media personal – especially considering someone had to tell him about it since he’s not on social media.
The good news was that after a few days last year the furor died down. The bad news is that the furor could rise again.
With the West Virginia Legislature back in session, the Tebow bill is back. It’s slightly modified, but the same basic elements are still in place. According to our friends at MetroNews, “included in the proposed bill currently are requirements that the activities fall under the state Secondary School Activities Commission, be in a student’s attendance area and apply the same disciplinary procedures to homeschooled students as public school students.”
There entire Senate Bill can be read in the MetroNews article linked HERE (scroll down to where it says SB 130). The key part of the bill is the same – allowing home schooled students to participate in public school activities.
And so is DeFazio’s opinion.
“I understand both sides, but I just firmly believe that only if you’re a student at a high school should you be allowed to participate in sports and extracurricular activities such as band that’s governed by the SSAC. If you’re home schooled that tells me that you don’t go to that school, which seems pretty simple. That’s not an indictment of home schooling. If you want to home school your kids, you should and there are plenty of excellent home schooled children out there,” DeFazio said. “I guess I could try to sugar coat my feelings, but I’m just answering your question and being honest. I respect those who disagree with me, even the ones who will call me the devil again.
“A big part of what those participating also take part in is the experience of being in a classroom with a teacher and your peers. A part of it is eating lunch with classmates, having interaction in the hallway or being part of a club,” DeFazio continued. “It’s amazing what kids learn in that setting and it’s part of the process of how kids grow up and mature as a high school student.”
DeFazio had many tell him after he voiced is opinion last year the fact those with home schooled children paid taxes should be reason enough to allow them to play. Again, he said he doesn’t necessarily agree with that.
“We all pay taxes and I can assure you I don’t have a say on how most of my taxes are spent. I know paying my taxes doesn’t necessarily give me permission to do anything I want,” said DeFazio. “Again, I definitely understand the argument. I just don’t agree with it.”
This year, I decided to go higher on the education food chain and ask Harrison County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Manchin his thoughts on it. Like DeFazio, he’s not a fan.
“I just don’t think it’s fair to those who come to school in the morning, spend all day there, and interact with teachers and the community. This isn’t an indictment of home schooling, which I think is fine. Part of my issue is there’s no specific schedule like the public schools, no one getting up on a schedule to catch a bus, going through the demands of a set schedule the same as your peers,” said Manchin. “There’s a commitment to that and the reward is being able to take part in one of the components of public education, which are extracurricular activities.”
Manchin said he’s also heard the argument of paying taxes. He’s certain tax dollars end up in the public school system from everyone that contributes, but Manchin said having kids at home instead of school pulls out the most important set of tax dollars.
“If they’re home schooled, we don’t get the money we would from the school aid formula based on enrollment … Still, to me the question isn’t about taxes. The question is about fairness,” said Manchin. “I know some people won’t like to hear that I don’t think it’s fair, and that’s what I believe.”
So does Manchin think it will pass?
“People beyond my pay grade will make that final decision and we’ll abide by it,” said Manchin. “I just hope they consider the difference involved because going to public school is more than just sitting and learning as much as you can in a classroom setting. It’s about interaction with everyone from your teachers and friends to the administrators. Circumventing it, to me, isn’t fair.”
DeFazio agreed.
“I know there are safeguards that would try to make it as level as possible, but it’s impossible. If a kid in public school gets home from a game at midnight they have to be here at 8 a.m. I’m not saying if this was in place a home schooled student wouldn’t be learning at 8 a.m., but there’s no way of knowing if they’re meeting the same standard. That’s just one example.” DeFazio said. “I haven’t seen anything yet that will change my mind and the fact there are other outlets, particularly athletically with Parks and Recreation and AAU means those students do have some avenues to participate.”
Still, there’s a chance the bill could pass. There’s a chance it could end up back on the governor’s desk. There’s a chance this time he won’t veto it.
And if that happens?
“We’ll welcome those students with no issue if that’s what we’re told to do,” said DeFazio. “Make no mistake that if that’s the policy, then we’ll 100 percent follow it.”
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Mark DeFazio, while Dr. Mark Manchin is shown below.

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