Regulations are needed to enforce a new law allowing homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular public school activities, the law’s sponsor and the head of the state’s homeschooling association told legislators Monday morning. The state’s education commissioner said the state is providing school districts guidance in complying with the law but shouldn’t try to regulate it.

Arkansas Act 1469 of 2013 by Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle) says school districts must let homeschooled students try out to participate in extracurricular activities this year. Districts may require students to be at the school for one period per day in order to participate.

But Lowery and Jerry Cox, executive director of the Education Alliance, a homeschooling group, told a joint interim meeting of the House and Senate Education committees that while many districts are welcoming homeschooled students, others are misinterpreting the law. Cox said districts have required students to take more than one class or have tried to deny them participation, for example.

Lowery and Cox said that the Arkansas Department of Education should create rules and regulations to clarify the law, but Dr. Tom Kimbrell, the state’s education commissioner, said the department has typically left all questions of athletic eligibility in the hands of the Arkansas Activities Association. Writing rules and regulations would take months, he said.

Kimbrell said the law is clear and meant to provide homeschooled students a chance to participate. Districts that don’t allow students to participate are making themselves vulnerable to a lawsuit, he said.

Instead, the department has been talking to administrators about the law and is planning on sending a memo out to districts by the end of the week offering guidance, Kimbrell said.

Lowery and Cox said the department has done a good job of communicating with districts, but more needs to be done.

“It is a good law. … We just need somebody to walk out onto the court and say, ‘These are the rules we’re going to live by,’” Cox said.

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Steve Brawner