SAUGUS — Home-schooled high-schoolers may now be eligible to participate in Saugus High School athletics and other extracurricular activities.
The School Committee voted 4-0 to support a modification to a School Department policy that had prohibited it for at least 19 years.
The way the policy, adopted in December 2000, existed meant if a child was home-schooled, they could not participate in extracurricular activities at all, said Jeannie Meredith, chairwoman of the School Committee.
“All the research that I’ve looked at — and common sense — supports that any social interaction for kids is beneficial. We wouldn’t want to hold these kids back from being socialized,” said Meredith.
A dozen students are home-schooled in Saugus.
The policy on home schooling reads that “home-schooled students are not enrolled in the Saugus Public Schools, and have, in fact, expressly sought permission to withdraw from the public school program. Therefore, home-schooled students are not eligible to participate in extracurricular and athletic programs.”
The policy was revised to include a line that allows home-schooled students to be eligible for extracurricular activities.
The line says the students may be allowed to participate in activities and athletic programs “at the discretion of the principal/superintendent.”
Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi spoke with Richard Pearson, a member of the board of directors for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, who clarified that home-schooled students’ eligibility to participate in programs would be evaluated based on equivalency, rather than equality. The academic eligibility will need to be certified by Saugus High School Principal Mike Hashem and approved by DeRuosi, he said.
The committee received an email from a parent of a home-schooled student in June 2018 asking if her son could participate in athletics, said Meredith. The question sparked the discussion and the policy subcommittee drafted a revision to present to the full committee in November 2018.
In her research, Meredith said she couldn’t find one other district in the area besides Saugus that didn’t allow it.
There are several different reasons a child would be home-schooled, including illness, she said. One parent asked whether her sick child, who only looks forward to participating in drama, would still be able to participate if the policy didn’t pass.
“I said ‘no’ and she was very upset by that,” said Meredith. “She pays taxes.”
School Committee member Lisa Morgante said she strongly supported allowing home-schooled children to participate. Her own daughter was out of school battling cancer for three months, she said. She remained a student with the public schools through a tutoring program and was eligible to remain involved with cheerleading and other activities.
“I’m all for anyone who wants to play sports being able to,” she said.