ATLANTA (AP) — The group that oversees high school athletics and activities in Georgia is endorsing a plan allowing home-schooled athletes play on their local public school team.

“It’s time for us to move in this direction,” Georgia High School Association Executive Director Robin Hines told the Senate Education and Youth Committee on Wednesday. "I believe that’s where we are; I believe that’s where our association is heading. At our core we are about providing opportunities for young people.”

The committee voted 7-2 for Senate Bill 51 on Wednesday, sending it to the Senate for more debate. The bill lets students in grades 6-12 take part in sports or other extracurricular activities such as band, drama or school clubs when they take at least one online course facilitated by the local public school system.

“This is not just a sports bill," said Cole Muzio, executive director of the Family Policy Alliance of Georgia. “This is a bill to end discrimination in our state against home school students and allow them to participate in all extracurricular activity only available at their public school.”

Hines said GHSA still has some concerns, such as making sure local school boards maintain their autonomy in deciding how students participate. But his endorsement could aid a proposal that has been gathering support in recent years, after multiple futile attempts.

Hines said that with so many traditional public school students taking virtual classes because of the pandemic “it’s not a far leap from the way things are happening now.”

More than 25 states allow home-schooled students to participate in sports and activities. Such laws are typically called Tim Tebow bills, named for the University of Florida football star who was a home-schooler when he made his mark playing football for a public high school in Florida.

Georgia schools have been resistant to such a plan, citing concerns about costs, the ability to discipline someone who’s not a student and taking places away from other students. But requiring the student to take at least one course gives schools the ability to require students meet their code of conduct.

Student would play at the public schools for which they are normally zoned and would have to get selected through a normal tryout process.

The Georgia version of the bill is named after Dexter Mosley, a Dunwoody resident who died in 2019 at age 51, leaving a wife and six children. He was the father of home-schooled athletes.

“Sports is not just a game, it is a life skill,” his widow, Chenelle Mosley, told the committee. “We just want the equal opportunity to be able to participate since we are spending money.”

The House has been the roadblock to approving home-schooler participation in public school interscholastic athletics, but a committee approved a bill mirroring the current concept before COVID-19 upended the 2020 session, signaling a breakthrough. The Senate has previously approved more permissive bills that died in the House.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

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