Posted: 2:33 pm Friday, March 28th, 2014
By Anthony Chiang
A bill that has the potential to change high school sports was passed by the Florida House of Representatives on Thursday night.
The bill would allow home schooled and virtual school students to participate in activities at any public school in the county or at any private school that agreed to let them join. The bill covers all sports governed by the Florida High School Athletic Association, all intramural sports and fine arts performances.
In addition, it would allow Palm Beach County charter school students to play sports or participate in activities in any public or private school within the county unless the charter school they attend offers the same activity. This would be a big shift from the current rule, which allows charter school and home schooled students to only participate in the school they are zoned for.
“The landslide would definitely tilt toward one side,” Lake Worth athletic director and football coach Jessie Hester said. “It would be a serious loop hole where you can have legal recruiting. Basically, kids will be able to go to all of these powerhouse schools with no repercussions.”
Area coaches and athletic directors are afraid that the proposed bill would end parity among high school sports. Some believe the area’s top players will gather at the handful of schools that would provide them with the most exposure.
Dwyer athletic director Tom Pagley is aware that the Panthers could benefit from this bill because of their strong athletic program, but he still disagrees with it.
“You are going to have three or four schools that are stud schools and it’s never going to change,” Pagley said. “We’re a beneficiary of that, but it’s because we have great coaches and we have established ourselves over the years. We can’t keep people from coming here if they want to come here. What am I supposed to do?”
There would be little anybody could do. But after passing the Florida House of Representatives, it still has to be be passed by both bodies of the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott. If it does pass, it would take effect July 1.
FHSAA spokesman Corey Sobers said he didn’t have a comment on Thursday’s news, but that they are “tracking the bill as it goes through.”
But even if it does take effect on July 1, Oxbridge Academy football coach Doug Socha believes it wouldn’t change Florida’s high school sports too much.
“I think it’s happening already,” Socha said. “Maybe this opens it up a little bit more, but I think what you’re seeing is that kids are really finding a way to go to schools they want to anyway. It’s already happening in some respect, whether people are moving or getting new addresses.”
Socha, whose wife home schools his kids, added that switching a high school student to home schooling is not easy, and that the transition could deter some from making the change.
“To think kids are going to drop out of high school and go into a home school program, I don’t think we are going to see a lot of that,” Socha said. “I know the challenges of home schooling and if kids have been in the public school system for 18 years, their mom and dad are not going to just pull them out and put them in a virtual school or home school situation.”
There are some coaches that support the proposed bill. Boca Raton boys soccer coach Marcelo Castillo, who has led the Bobcats to 12 straight district titles, said he is in favor of giving kids more freedom.
“Those are the things that could make a difference in getting into a good college and not getting into a good college,” Castillo said. “I’m all about giving the kids as much exposure and not limiting their ability to do what they want to do.”
If passed through the state legislature, this bill has the potential to do just that.
About the Author
Anthony Chiang began his writing career in Gainesville at the University of Florida’s student-run newspaper. At The Independent Florida Alligator, he covered the school’s golf, volleyball, baseball, and football teams. The Miami native has also written for the Sun Sentinel and MLB.com, following the Tampa Bay Rays.