Texas teams, need some help

I just discovered today that our local school board policy does not allow private school and home school students to join our FRC team. Are there any Texas public school teams that allow private or home school students as team members? If so can you post or message me as to how you conquered this hurdle?

Thanks in advance,

Mr. B

We too almost ran into that problem.

We come from a very well off town called Brookfield. By having students from other towns both from other schools and home schooled student, sponsors have been more willing to donate to us. With out these students, many businesses would assume we have enough money since were from Brookfield.

We explained this to the school and said if they want to kick those students off then the school should give us the money that we would be losing.

To this day, and they always have, we get 0$ from the school. Dont know if this helps for your situation. But lesson is: Tell them how these students benefit the team

Same, we’ve had a few home-schoolers who wanted to join the FRC program but couldn’t join our team because of district policy. Since we would like everyone to have the opportunity to be a part of FIRST, we’ve talked about starting a homeschool team.

We have a very open membership policy for our team and there have always been one or two home-schooled students on Texas Torque. The non-school district members of the team have been responsible for their own transportation and lodging for events.

Most school districts in Texas get their board policy from the same source, the Texas Association of School Boards. Which section of the board policy does having a home-schooled student on the team violate?

Mr. Rip

I think it’s because the district can’t be held liable for anything that happens to an outside student on an organization directly associated with the school. Our team is technically a club under the high school. I can’t speak for 4063 however, they may have some other issue.

I know we had a couple of home school student on the team when I was there. I don’t think we had to do anything special, but I was only a student. I’ll see if one of the teachers has anything to add.

I thank you for the quick replies, but I hope we have more than 2 Texas teams that will respond to this need. If you know of any other teams, please have them contact me.

Thanks again, looking forward to seeing y’all in Dallas and San Antonio.

Mr. B

We do not have any home school/private school students on our team, but our school district does allow anyone living within our school’s admission zone (in our case, the entire district) to participate in extracurricular activities. This was because there were a lot of private school students wanting to participate in the other schools’ football programs. So theoretically, we could take students from home schools or private schools, but we have yet to have anyone from there apply, so we don’t have anyone on our team who don’t currently attend our school.

Last year I asked the school administration if a kid from a neighboring private school could join our team. I was very surprised to hear the answer was no. I was thinking this family pays the same taxes I do and would thus be granted the same opportunities.

Unfortunately, this issue lands in a legal quagmire. While families do have a constitutional right to send their kids to a private school or homeschool them, they are not guaranteed equal access to the public school. Each state handles it differently… there are 10 states that do grant equal access (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) but for the other 40 (including Texas), it’s typically left up to the individual school districts.

My hope is that more and more states will soon be joining the equal access side, but for now the best path is probably to understand why your district is opposed to allowing other kids participate and then propose measures that will ease their concerns.

Public school access by state:

Brian, we have had only 3 home school kids over the past 8 years. I didn’t even think to ask if it was OK. Oops.

Was that during the don’t ask, don’t tell era or the ask for forgiveness later period? Knowing you Bruce, I’m sure it was the here’s a kid who’s interested in STEM/robotics, yes we have a place for you on our team ideal.

Honestly, I didn’t give it a second thought until one day we were discussing liability if someone got hurt. Thought it was best to check it out.

The home school and private school students we have on 3481 Bronc Botz are only on our FRC team.

We have 3 FTC teams with only Northside ISD students so far.

Our HS/PS students ALL have formed their own FTC teams which we consider our sister teams… they’ve formed total of 3 teams.

EVERY HS/PS student that we’ve allowed to join the team are students who have sought out and approached us because they have a passion and extreme interest in competition robotics and they don’t have the means/resources to form and maintain an FRC-class team.

I believe it to be cruel treatment to turn away any student who is passionate about competition robotics.

–Michael Blake

P.S. To deal with possible legal issues, non-Northside ISD students stay with their parents when we travel, and pay the full-cost of their portion of transportation (they are not subsidized by district $$), and their parents fill-out and sign release forms.

Mr. B.-
3999 was founded for the sole purpose of allowing ALL student s to participate. The local district has only one school that is doing FRC and they do not allow outsiders. Shadetree has kids from 2 different districts and Home School kids as well. There are actually some students that attend the HS that does FRC but choose to participate with us. The open policy has worked for us so far.

Would you consider yourself a public school based team? Do you receive any school district funding?

The DiscoBots expanded our program to homeschool students in 2010.
We also have multiple high schools from Houston ISD feeding into our program.

Many of the financial decisions are easy because we are primarily supported by a non-profit organization created by the team.
We decided early on that relying on the school for finances was not a viable option for sustainability.

The only funding we get from the school is travel and hotels. Homeschool students are not financially tied to any of the public school funded travel. Homeschool students are responsible for paying their way or will have our non-profit organization assist.

Although 1370 is slightly outside the reach of the Texas school boards, we had a similar discussion. The result was that we invested in a $2 million liability policy to cover the team and all members while in the shop and on trips. With the insurance now separate from the school district, we could probably push for any student being on the team. Currently, we limit it to 100% from the confines of the school district and 90% from the public schools themselves.

There are some great ideas and information on this thread. It’s pretty cool to see how passionate people are about FRC and to what extents they will go to give this opportunity to ALL kids. It’s clear that if a team gets creative and pushes the right buttons, they have a good chance of overcoming the school board barriers to entry.

In our case, by the time I had heard the school board did not allow kids “outside” the district to participate, the interested private school student decided not to participate. Not sure what I would have done if he still wanted to be apart of the team… you all have inspired me.

Mr. B-
3999 is completely independent. We do not get any funding from the local school districts. This has some benefit as we do not have to follow district rules and policies. We are able to take any student that wants to participate. The downside is that our students do not get the same treatment as district students. This becomes a problem when attendance at regionals is not excused.

Thanks for the information. You might want to look at how 4-H does things. I have many students that miss school for various functions and they are excused absences.

Mr. B.

Mr. B,
While my team is not in Texas, we were faced with the exact same situation. We have a core group of students from private and home schools that have been on the team for quite a while. Originally we asked if this was ok, probably 5+ years ago, and we received the ok. Then last year we had to ask the school system a completely unrelated question and they “investigated” or looked into the team and gave us a list of things that needed to be addressed; one of which is the private and home school students.

Our initial reaction was the school system was trying to “take credit” for the program. We were very defensive and aggressive at first, and got nowhere. We settled for the time to look into alternatives. The school system has a relationship with the Boy Scouts of America as an explorer post for other activities, so that quickly filtered to the top. We also did some research on 4-H and a few other local options. We were planning a proposal, but another meeting was held before we could finish the proposal; probably a good thing looking back.

The school system had switched tones and began to work with us on the issue. They noticed and explained they understand what the mission and purpose of the team. They also realized the impact and support the program gives and receives from the community and didn’t want to see that diminish in any way. They came out and told us it came down to liability on the non-school system students. That is the root of the problem we had to solve. To do this we agreed to allow the lawyer to write a waiver of liability that each private or home school student must complete. We brought the parents of the students in to allow the lawyer to explain everything and the parents agreed this was a very viable solution.

I encourage you to work with the school system. In our case, we were able to find a “simple” solution that had very little impact on how we normally operated.

Over the weekend I heard that another team picked up liability through their county Parks and Recreation office. Their team was viewed just as any other sport team (soccer, field hockey, etc).

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you need any assistance or further details.