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 22, 2016 that was originally posted at https://plus.google.com/105581925654470076312/posts/39gWBbTURD7.
So, how did the New Mexico Activities Association's reinterpretation of the law actually change the rules for homeschool teams trying to participate in interscholastic events?
Around the time that the team was first blocked from participating, I read the NMAA Handbook on eligibility requirements for homeschool students and homeschool teams. At the time (around September or October), Section 8.1.7 of the handbook said this:
8.1.7 Home School Student Eligibility
A. As per New Mexico State Legislation, home school students are permitted to participate in NMAA activities ONLY at the public school in the district in which they live.
B. The individual activity, based on the constitution of its national governing organization, has the purview to allow home school teams to participate.
C. A home school student who participates on a home school team is not eligible for state awards.
D. A home school team, although eligible to participate in state competitions, is ineligible to compete for state awards.
E. A home school student who participates on a public school team is eligible to compete for individual awards under the name of that public school.
F. A home school student’s participation on a public school team counts towards the final placement of that team in regards to any state awards.
G. Additional participation guidelines such as practice requirements, entry fees, etc., shall be determined by the individual activity.
H. Home school students are subject to any and all requirements set forth by the activity.
(See https://web.archive.org/web/20150918173116/http://www.nmact.org/file/Section_8.pdf for a copy of the rules from 09/18/2015 provided by Archive.org. )
When I read the rules, I was a little surprised that the homeschool students that participated with a homeschool team could not compete for state awards--very odd. But, the rules said that if the national governing organization allowed homeschool teams to participate, then the NMAA would as well, with the restriction that they could not win state awards. Certainly discriminatory, but possibly a compromise necessary from who knows when and where (I haven't tracked that down yet).
This week when I started writing about this problem, I went back to the NMAA Handbook and read the rules and the comments about homeschool teams were totally missing, which confused me. I was quite certain that I had read some rules about the participation of homeschool teams. The Handbook now says:
8.1.7 Home School Student Eligibility
A. As per New Mexico State Legislation, home school students are permitted to participate in NMAA activities ONLY at the public school in the attendance zone in which they live.
B. A home school student who participates on a public school team in the attendance zone in which they reside is eligible to compete for individual awards under the name of that public school.
C. A home school student’s participation on a public school team in the attendance zone in which they reside counts towards the final placement of that team in regards to any state awards.
D. Additional participation guidelines such as practice requirements, entry fees, etc. shall be determined by the individual activity.
E. Home school students are subject to any and all requirements set forth by the activity.
(See http://www.nmact.org/file/Section_8.pdf for the original source.)
You will notice that points B, C, and D from the original text are now gone. Thankfully, I was able to go back to the version I read by hunting it down on Archive.org (see the first link above) so I can see how things had changed. It is fairly frustrating that the NMAA Handbook does not include any revision dates, version numbers, etc.
Another thing that I find interesting is that the nature of 8.1.7.A has changed between the two sets of rules. In the first case, 8.1.7.A effectively is limiting the eligibility of homeschool students participation to be with their local school district, as opposed to participating with another school district within the state. It is not limiting their participation with homeschool teams.
The newer version of 8.1.7 changes the nature of 8.1.7.A because the context has changed. In the second version, 8.1.7.A is stating that homeschool students can only participate with their local school district for all cases, as opposed to being able to participate with a homeschool team--an interesting evolution of the rule's impact and meaning.
In any case, as a result of this rule change, the NMAA and the New Mexico Speech and Debate Association (NMSDA) started to enforce the view that homeschool students could only participate with their local public school. I suppose looking at the bright side, there was a provision for homeschool students to participate, but it is far from clear what barring homeschool teams from participating accomplishes.
To see how these rule changes affected the NMSDA rules, one can refer to:
"Speech and Debate: Ms. Hannah Flake, Treasurer of the NM Speech and Debate Association reported that the NMSDA has rewritten the constitution and all other guidelines over the summer of 2015 due to the align the constitution with the state law that does not allow homeschooled students to compete as a separate club. Homeschooled students must participate with the school located in their home residence. The new constitution also specifies that all speech and debate invitational tournaments are under the sanctioning of the NMAA, therefore no homeschool teams may compete. The new constitution specifies that “club teams made up of students competing without official sanctioning from their school are also prohibited."
Of course, those affected the most by these changes are the homeschool teams' young women and men. For example, the Jemez Mountain Team has only been able to fully participate in two in-state events, was partially allowed to participate in another, and has been rejected or otherwise pressured to withdraw from at least 6 other in-state events. The team has had to go to more out-of-state events, usually, with only a fraction of the team due to the distance and expense. They have or will travel to Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and other states to participate.
Additionally, the team's students are being affected in another serious way, especially, the team's senior(s). Demonstrating skill in speech and debate in state and nationally helps students in their applications to colleges, so their college careers are being affected by this change.
To add insult to injury, the problems with the NMAA are also putting in jeopardy the team's recognition and ability to participate at the national level. The national organization, as I understand it, will only recognize teams that the state-level organization recognizes or allows to compete. So, the very recognition of the team with the national organization is at risk.
Writing about the Albuquerque homeschool science olympiad team, the Albuquerque Journal (http://www.abqjournal.com/680974/living/new-nmaa-homeschool-rule-reeks-of-sour-grapes.html) noted that the changes in the NMAA rules can be interpretted as a case of "sour grapes", especially considering that the team had been quite successful. I would also suggest that it looks much the same way from the perspective of the Jemez Mountain Homeschool Speech and Debate Team--the team has been very successful during its existence, especially, considering its size.
It is hard to tell the actual motivation for the changes, whether it is malice or an attempt "follow state law", but, in either case, the rules and/or law appear to be needlessly exclusive and should change to be more inclusive.