Home-schooled students living in Mahwah will not be allowed to play on Mahwah sports teams, thanks to a unanimous vote by the Board of Education Wednesday night. The board and district administration said the decision was based on the differences in academic, behavior and conduct standards between publicly schooled and home-schooled children.
Interim Superintendent Dr. Karen Lake explained that in order to participate in Mahwah athletics, high school students need to take a certain number of credits each year, be passing a specified number of courses with a certain GPA, and must abide by the disciplinary rules and a behavioral code of conduct at the school.
“There is no way to judge the home-schooled kids, so there would be no way to make sure that they are meeting the same standards our kids are required to meet,” Lake said. According to Lake, home-schooled students aren’t required to take a certain number of courses, don’t need to take state exams, and don’t have a grading system that ts comparable to the one in the public school district.
“How could I go up to a kid and tell him that he didn’t make the basketball team, and instead we are going to give his spot to a student who doesn’t need to meet the same requirements he does?” she asked. “That wouldn’t be fair to our students.”
One parent at the board meeting Wednesday questioned whether or not the decision was disregarding the well-being of the home-schooled children in the community.
“From my experience with other families who have home-schooled their children, they traditionally perform as well, if not better, academically than public school kids,” one Mahwah parent said at the meeting. “But usually, the area where they are lacking is the ability to interact with other kids in the community.”
Lake said she wasn’t denying the academic ability of home-schooled students. “I wish I had a system on which I could judge these kids, but it’s just not there.”
The board’s decision was brought on by a recent change is the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s policies. The organization, which sets high school sports rules and regulations across the state, changed its bylaws last November to say each district’s board of education had the right to decide whether or not it would allow home-schooled students to play for its teams.