BRICK – Should homeschooled children in the township be permitted to participate in school sports?
That question would be tackled by a school policy committee after Rachel Pabon attended the Oct. 12 Board of Education meeting to ask why her homeschooled 15-year-old daughter was denied participation on the Brick High School swim team.
Pabon said she emailed the guidance office over the summer, who told her that her daughter would need a physical and a transcript, and to forward the results to the high school athletics department.
“My daughter passed a physical on Aug. 9, and I turned the transcript in on Monday, and on Wednesday she was denied by the athletic department without reason,” said Pabon during public comment.
Pabon said she didn’t understand why her daughter was denied since she’d heard there was a homeschooled student who is presently playing football in the district.
That’s true, said Ben Szuba, whose homeschooled son plays football for Brick Memorial High School.
“My other son wrestled and he was almost undefeated…and he got almost a full ride to Monmouth University,” said Szuba, who also attended the Board of Education meeting.
“I got a call today and they said my son can finish playing football but can’t wrestle,” Szuba said. “I’m asking this Board to re-look at this policy.”
Acting Superintendent Dennis Filippone said he did not have an excuse why homeschooled children are not allowed to participate in sports.
“It’s a policy being followed by two building principals. We will talk to our attorney and have a policy meeting,” he said. “There are a lot of new faces [on the Board of Education]. We’ll do our homework.”
Very few districts allow homeschooled students to participate in school athletics, Filippone added. He said the administration would have an answer for Pabon, Szuba and other homeschooled students before the next Board of Education meeting.
After the meeting, Filippone said that the State Department of Education does not have a policy on allowing homeschooled children to participate in school activities.
“They are silent on the subject. It’s up to the superintendent in each district,” Filippone said.
Before 2015, the Brick school district had a policy that allowed homeschooled high school students to participate in athletics if they took enough credits to meet NJSIAA (New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association) guidelines, he said.
“They had to provide a curriculum, or a portfolio of work for that semester to the school for principal evaluation, and their eligibility was determined by the quality of their classwork,” Filippone explained.
The issue is, technically, they are not a registered Brick Township High School student, which is a major sticking point for districts, Filippone said.
Pabon said she homeschools her only child because her daughter loves to read and they have had the freedom to travel up and down the coast meeting authors.
“I’m hoping she can be on the swim team,” Pabon said after the meeting. “The first swim practice is Nov. 6, so we still have time.”
Filippone said the policy committee would include himself; Interim Director of Planning, Research and Evaluation Thomas Gialanella; Director of Curriculum and Instruction Susan McNamara; Board President John Lamela; and Board of Education member Melita Gagliardi.
The next Board of Education meeting will be on Thursday Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. at Brick High School.
In other news, Filippone recognized some first responders who responded to a “unique and difficult” situation on Sept. 14 when an electrical fire at Emma Havens Young Elementary School resulted in all the students being evacuated to the nearby Drum Point Elementary School. Then the electricity went out at there as well, resulting in 2,000 students “needing action very quickly.”
“The first responders’ interaction with the staff and students was remarkable,” Filippone said. Police officers were called off their shifts and the police department offered housing at the PAL building across the street for students who couldn’t be picked up right away.
Filippone also thanked Police Chief Riccio for allowing six or seven Brick police patrolmen to be trained and lent to the school district to participate in the #NotEvenOnce Program, a 3-day anti-opioid program for high school juniors and seniors.