With Google shutting down Google+, I thought it was important to convert some Google+ posts to posts on this blog. Below is a post from January 24, 2016 that was originally at https://plus.google.com/105581925654470076312/posts/chJzK8BeWBF.
Continuing the story about how the New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) bans homeschool teams from participating, the picture associated with this post shows a protest held on January 22nd at the NMAA in favor of including homeschool teams at NMAA-sanctioned events like speech and debate and science olympiad. Unfortunately, the process of appeals to the NMAA and New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) is stalled and so protest and other ways of getting the attention of the public might be the only ways to get some action.
As mentioned in previous posts, the NMAA changed their rules for the 2015-2016 school year only allowing homeschool students to participate in NMAA activities (sports, speech and debate, science olympiad, etc.) through their local school districts (https://plus.google.com/105581925654470076312/posts/39gWBbTURD7). The NMAA claims that the rule change was made to be aligned to state law, but this is highly debatable, as my previous post on the subject describes (https://plus.google.com/105581925654470076312/posts/22KPP1p4vzB).
So, what are the homeschool teams to do? I will briefly describe the tale of two well-established teams and how they dealt with the situation and the different outcomes they experienced.
First, the Albuquerque Area Home Schoolers Science Olympiad Team. This team has been around for at least 10 years and has been quite successful. The team appealed to the NMAA officially (http://sciolyaahs.com/uploads/pkt_to_nmaa_20151118.pdf). To their credit, they also went to the local press in Albuquerque, including the television stations to bring this issue to the larger community. As you can see on their web site (http://sciolyaahs.com), this science olympiad team received an OK to compete. I suspect, based on some personal communication I received and the facts surrounding the team's saga, that the publicity was a significant factor in their OK to compete this year.
It is great that they were able to compete, but how are other homeschool teams fairing? In short, not as well. It is odd that the exemption that the Albuquerque team has received has not been applied to other homeschool teams, such the Jemez Mountain Homeschool Speech and Debate Team, the second of the two teams mentioned in this post.
Carolyn Connor, the Jemez Mountain Team's long-time coach, has been going through the far-from-timely appeals processes with the NMAA and the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED). The NMAA's ruling was about 30 days late and the NMAA has yet to meet with the team to discuss their ruling. Likewise, the NMPED is more than 60 days late with their ruling on the team's NMPED appeal. All of this has happened despite the support of several of the state's speech and debate teams and the efforts by State Representative Stephanie Garcia Richard and the Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Kurt Steinhaus, to engage the NMAA to allow the Jemez Mountain Team to participate as a homeschool team. In fact, Dr. Steinhaus offered to sponsor the Jemez Mountain Team through the Los Alamos Public School District, but the NMAA rejected the offer.
As of today (January 24, 2016), the Jemez Mountain Team continues to be banned from participating in in-state speech and debate activities, the most recent one being January 22nd and 23rd at La Cueva. (See Original Google+ post or the local version for more details on the impacts on the team.) Time continues to tick away and the opportunities for the team to participate in-state continue to dwindle.
Again, it isn't clear why homeschool students are being excluded, but clearly getting the public's attention has shown some promise in getting the NMAA to make exceptions to some poorly thought-out, exclusionary rules.
Want to help out? You can consider the following ideas taken from the Albuquerque Home Schoolers Science Olympiad Team's web site (http://sciolyaahs.com):
Write a letter to PED (New Mexico Public Education Department).
Secretary, New Mexico Public Education Department
Jerry Apodaca Education Building
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Contact your legislator (http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/legislator_search.aspx) to protest this ruling, as it is not really based on NM law.
Write a letter to NMAA, expressing the injustice of bylaw change. Include personal experiences of participating on a home school team. Direct the letter to
Sally Marquez (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Executive Director of NMAA
6600 Palomas Avenue NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109
Write letters to NMAA corporate sponsors (http://www.nmact.org/corporate-partners).
Spread the word!