Lawrence family helps change state activities policy

Emily Bachert plays clarinet in the Encore Home School Band, which practices Fridays at Hume Music, 711 W. 23rd St. She is the daughter of Martha Bachert, who helped convince the Kansas State High School Activities Association to change its policy on home-schooled students.

The Bachert family never intended to set a precedent. They just wanted their son to play in State Band.

But last year, they ended up with the type of battle they say is typical of the bureaucratic struggles home-schoolers sometimes face.

At the time, Zachary Bachert was a junior at Lawrence Virtual School. The baritone saxophone player qualified first for District Band and later for the prestigious State Band.

But the Kansas State High School Activities Association, which organizes the bands, stripped him of the honor after learning he was a virtual school student and not enrolled at a school building.

“We just came unglued,” says his mother, Martha Bachert. “The district gets funding for him being there. He doesn’t answer to me as his teacher.”

The family consulted with the Rutherford Institute, a conservative group that aims to protect civil liberties, and received pro bono legal help. They also testified before a legislative committee.

The KSHSAA eventually changed its policy. Now, virtual school students can participate in sanctioned activities – which include sports, music, speech and debate – but must be enrolled in at least one class at a brick-and-mortar school.

“Interscholastic programs are based upon the fundamental premise that schools develop their teams only from their student body,” says Gary Musselman, the association’s executive director, in explaining the classroom requirement. “To do otherwise essentially makes a school team no different than a club team or town team.”

He notes that the rise of virtual education gives parents who shun the bricks-and-mortar schools an option for extracurricular activities.

“While home school is clearly legal,” he says, “it is a choice of educational delivery systems which families elect. With that choice come advantages and limitations, as is the case in all things.”

That means home-school students can’t participate in KSHSAA activities.

Zachary Bachert is taking band at Lawrence High School this year. He again qualified for State Band and plans to major in music in college.

“I didn’t think we could do it,” Martha Bachert says. “I was sick about it. … It’s good for us, but we also did something for the others, too. It was a huge thing for him.”