School Board denies Weeks’ bid to put homeschool students on bench
The Dickson County Board of Education refused to accept a proposal from the school system’s head administrator that would have barred homeschool students from competing in sports against their peers in public schools.
With a large turnout at the meeting Thursday September 19, the board voted 4-2 to keep the current policy, which allows 160 homeschool students at West Academy to compete against the county’s public school students.
The vote scraps a proposed revision to district policy, put forth by Director of Schools Danny Weeks, that would have made West Academy team and individual athletes ineligible for competition against public schools.
“For whatever reason, West Academy and homeschoolers in general are seen as an enemy of the public schools — not by the students, the teachers, the coaches or the principals of our school system — but rather, by the central office administration,” Jody Barrett, a Dickson attorney, told the board. He and his wife coach the West Academy cross country team.
Barrett cited other instances of what he considered unfair treatment by Weeks’ office toward homeschool students.
Last February, Weeks tried to stop West Academy track and field athletes from competing in meets at Dickson County High that had already been scheduled. The homeschool students were allowed to participate, after Barrett brought the issue to the board.
Barrett also said the office has contradicted the board’s policy governing the public’s after-hours use of school facilities. He cited denials of West Academy requests for activities such as volleyball practice in the Stuart Burns Elementary gym.
Weeks said he has no personal agenda against homeschool or West Academy in particular.
He said his motivation had to do with regulations on sports eligibility, such as attendance mandates and academic performance students, under the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) and its middle school affiliate (TMSAA)
TSSAA and TMSAA allow homeschool students who meet their requirements to compete in sports against public or private school students. Weeks, though, said there’s “no oversight” of homeschool-affiliated organizations and he wanted to ensure a “level playing field” for public school kids.
Parents of homeschool children, on the other hand, said they are following the rules and educating their children diligently. They said they feel insulted by any implications to the contrary.