Bylaw 4-3-1 states, “All students participating in a school-sponsored sport must be enrolled in and attending full-time in accordance with all duly adopted Board of Education or similar governing board policies of that school.” There are six exceptions to this Bylaw. Exception six (6) refers to state law and the four categories of students that are covered and have a participation opportunity at the public school in the parents' district of residence:
Here are the most common questions the OHSAA receives in regards to non-enrolled students:
1. Are home-educated students living in our school district eligible for athletics at our public school?
Yes, but first you want to make sure the student is indeed home-educated by confirming with the superintendent that the student has been excused from compulsory attendance. This will also confirm that the family resides in your district and you will be able to determine the grade in school, which is important for tracking semesters of eligibility. The student must be eligible in all other aspects (scholarship, age, transfer, etc.). If the sport that a home educated student wishes to play is not sponsored by the school in the residential district, the student MAY be permitted to participate at another school district subject to the sole discretion of that district's superintendent.
If a student claims they are home-educated but you are unable to confirm this with your superintendent, see question 2.
2. Are students living in our school district who enter community (which may also be online) or STEM schools eligible for athletics at our public school?
A student who attends one of Ohio's more than 500 community schools, whether digital or brick-and-mortar, shall, in accordance with state law, have a participation opportunity - not a guarantee – ONLY at the public school in the parents' residential district. The student must be eligible in all other aspects (scholarship, age, transfer, semesters, etc.).
Online digital academies, such as ECOT, Ohio Virtual Academy, Ohio Connections Academy, etc., are actually community public schools. Students who attend these online public schools are NOT home-educated, even though they may be receiving their education at home. State law permits these students to have a participation opportunity - not a guarantee - ONLY at the public school in the parents' district of residence and only if the community school does not sponsor the sport. The student must be eligible in all other aspects (scholarship, age, transfer, etc.). If the public school in the parents' district of residence does not offer the sport then the community or STEM school student simply has no participation opportunity.
3. Where are students who attend non-public schools eligible to participate if their school does not offer a specific sport?
A student who attends a non-public school shall have a participation opportunity - not a guarantee - EITHER at the public school located in the district of residence OR at the public school located in the district where the non-public school is located and ONLY if his/her school does not sponsor the specific sport. The student must be eligible in all other aspects (scholarship, age, transfer, semesters, etc.). If the public school in either the parents' district of residence or in the district where the non-public school is located does not offer the sport, then the student simply has no participation opportunity.
Once a student has commenced participation either at the public school located in the district of residence of the parents, or at the public school located in the district where the non-public school is located (should those two schools be different), then that student's eligibility shall remain at that respective school for the duration of the school year, regardless of what sports that school may or may not offer. For the subsequent year, should the student decide to transfer his/her eligiblity to the other school at which they also have a participation opportunity, the transfer consequence shall apply for all sports in which the student participated during the 12 months immediately preceding the transfer of the participation opportunity.
4. Are home-educated/non-public school/community/stem school students who are NOT living in our school district eligible for athletics at our public school?
Typically, no. If the family does not live in your district then they are not eligible at your school (unless the student is home educated or attending a non-public school which is located in your district; See Q& A #1 and #3 above). The law permits students at STEM and Community schools to have a participation opportunity ONLY in the public school in the residential district. They are not entitled to a greater participation opportunity than those students attending member schools. There is an exception for the home educated student and for the non-public school student as stipulated above. If the sport that a home educated student wishes to play is not sponsored by the school in the residential district, the student MAY be permitted to participate at another school district subject to the sole discretion of that district's superintendent. The non-public school student has just two choices 1) the residential public school or 2) the public school in the district in which the non-public school is located.
5. The public school my student attends does not offer a certain sport. Are students who want to play that sport eligible at a different school?
For a 'conventional' public school, NO. Bylaw 4-3-1 indicates that a student must be enrolled and attending full-time to have the privilege of athletic participation. Exception 6 of Bylaw 4-3-1 indicates that there is an exception in accordance with state law. The students who have an opportunity to participate on different school teams in accordance with state law are those who reside in a district and are students who attend the following types of schools: non-public schools, community schools and STEM schools. Students who are home schooled and live in a school district also have an opportunity to participate on those school teams. The language in the State law is not written to include students who attend conventional public schools that do not have a participation opportunity. Remember that the opportunity for non-enrolled students is at the residential public school ONLY, with the two exceptions cited – home educated students and non-public school students.
6. Is there paperwork that needs submitted to the OHSAA if a student plays sports for a public school based on the O.R.C.?
There is no paperwork that needs to be submitted to the OHSAA if the student is eligible based on the O.R.C. If the student is eligible in all regards, scholarship, age, transfer, etc., and has had a physical exam in the past year, there is nothing the OHSAA can do to "deny" the participation opportunity, thus no paperwork or request needs to be submitted. It is advised, however, that you get written verification from the student’s former school that he/she did not play sports in the 12 months immediately preceding the “transfer” into your school. If the student did play a sport in the immediately preceding 12 months, then he/she MAY be subject to the consequence of the transfer bylaw in each respective sport.
7. Do home-educated/non-public school/community school students who live in a multiple high school district get to choose which school they would like to attend?
No. Students who live in a multiple high school district must compete at the school the student would have been assigned to attend, or the school closest to the residence of the parents.
8. Our school has to make “cuts” to keep team sizes manageable. Are we required to keep non-enrolled students on our team according to the O.R.C?
No. A non-enrolled student is afforded the same opportunity as enrolled students; they are not entitled to a greater opportunity. Non-enrolled students, in accordance with state law, have the opportunity to try out for a team, but it does not mean that the student cannot be cut from a team if cuts are made.
9. What other questions should I ask when determining whether or not a home-educated/non-public school/community/stem school student is eligible for athletics?
"Have you participated in any sports in the immediately preceding 2 months at another school?" If the answer is yes, the student may be considered a transfer student and may have to meet an exception to become immediately eligible. If the student does not meet a transfer exception, the student may have to sit out until the first 50 percent of the maximum allowable regular-season contests are competed in any sport he/she played in the 12 months prior to the transfer. Have a school administrator contact the OHSAA's eligibility department if you need assistance in determining which exception this student may be able to meet.
The most comprehensive guidance for these guidelines can be found at: http://www.ohsaa.org/eligibility/GuidelinesForNon-EnrolledStudents.pdf