Sue Rothermel said she thinks her homeschooled children should be allowed to play sports at Dallastown Area public schools.

After all, her family pays taxes.

But homeschooling five boys doesn't leave much time, so she'll decide whether her children will participate based on the amount of paperwork required.

"It could be a real pain in the neck if they began to require a ridiculous amount of documentation," she said.

Among the county's 16 school districts, Dallastown is one of nine that do not allow homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities.

But school districts are drafting policies to do so in response to a bill signed by Gov. Ed Rendell on Nov. 10. The bill orders the state's public school districts to allow homeschooled children to participate in extracurricular sports and activities offered by the districts where they live.

The new law includes language to make sure homeschoolers meet the same requirements as traditional students.

Working to comply: In the South Western School District, Superintendent Barbara Rupp said her district also hasn't allowed homeschooler participation because of difficulty making sure the students, "over which we have no control," are eligible to play.

The district has strict guidelines to monitor the attendance, tardiness and academic performance of athletes.

"We always felt it would be a challenge to have homeschoolers meet the same eligibility requirements that our children do in our schools," she said.

The homeschooled students' parents, instead of teachers, would have to provide attendance and performance information to the district, Rupp said.

Complying: In Central York, assistant superintendent Gretchen McFarland said eligibility requirements were also a problem in her district, which did not allow homeschooler participation but is working to comply with the new state law.

The bill says a supervisor of
homeschooling, generally a parent, must certify that the student meets the school district's grade and attendance requirements.

South Eastern School District has not allowed homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities, but held a pilot program this year to test the idea.

Only one student -- a male football player -- participated in the pilot.

But assistant superintendent Tracy Shank said that regardless of whether it's one student or 50, there must be an equitable system of accountability.

As the number of homeschool participants increases, the district is charged with developing a system to monitor homeschoolers to make sure the grade, attendance and discipline information provided by parents is accurate, she said.

The writers of the bill gave school districts a Jan. 1 deadline for compliance, which some school districts haven't been able to meet.

Carol Zeiders, a member of the policy committee in Central York, said her district is still working to comply with the new rule, in part because school boards must allow a 30-day comment period after advertising proposed policy changes before adopting them.

Shank said South Eastern hasn't adopted its policy yet, also because of the 30-day advertising requirement. A draft policy was presented at the school board's December meeting, but it won't formally adopted until the board's January meeting.

"We ended up doing it later than we wanted to, but figured we're complying," she said.

State Rep. Beverly Mackereth, R-Spring Grove, voted for the bill, but said there would likely be no penalty for districts who are still working on complying. The effective dates written into the bill are not fair to school districts that need time to alter their policies, she said.

And the Jan. 1 deadline falls in the middle of the winter sports season, another aspect that of the bill that "sounds like it wasn't thought through," Mackereth said.

Generally, students can't begin playing a sport halfway through a season because tryouts have already been held.

Because South Eastern's pilot program was already in effect, any homeschool student who wanted to participate in a winter sport would have tried out with traditional students, Shank said.

Some allow participation: Some York County school districts already allow homeschool student participation, such as Eastern York School District, which has had a policy for the past five years, said superintendent Michael Thew. 

"Because all of the people in the school district are taxpayers, we looked at that and said they should be able to be involved, too," he said.

Eastern has more than 100 homeschoolers, but no more than two have ever participated in an extracurricular program at once, he said.

Once per week, participating students' parents send a report that ensures the child is meeting the district's eligibility requirements -- a "C" average or better in every subject, Thew said.

Dover Area School District allows its 131 homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities and curricular offerings, such as academic classes, said assistant superintendent Michael Baksa.

Although some students take art and music classes, "I don't think it's a lot of them," he said.

May not opt in: York County has more than 1,500 homeschooled students, compared to 25,000 statewide. Pennsylvania will be one of 15 states that guarantee access to public school activities.

Rothermel, 45, said she didn't lobby for the legislation and doesn't know if she'll ever take advantage of it, though her sons have been active in non-government-organized lacrosse and a debate team.

"I'm going to trust God to supply all of our needs as far as sports and (other activities)," she said. "We never enrolled our kids in public school in order to teach them a Christian world view, a biblical world view. Government schools don't do that, even in extracurriculars."

She said she wouldn't allow her younger children to participate in public school activities, but would consider it with her older children.

Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5434 or ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.