Fifteen-year-old Nick Peterson began practicing with the Maine West High School wrestling team last month, but four days into practice, school officials told him to hang up his earguards and singlette.
As a home-schooled student, he was told he couldn't join the wrestling team -- and it was only through a change of Maine Township District 207 rules that he would be allowed to come back.
That's why Nick and his parents are appealing to school board members and district administrators to change a district policy that prevents home-schooled students from participating in interscholastic athletics.
But district officials say it may not be as easy as a simple policy change.
Chris and Kim Peterson of Des Plaines have always home-schooled Nick and their five other children, but they say they anticipated their children would have been able to play sports at Maine West when their kids reached high school age.
Nick has participated in a local wrestling club program for the past three years, and played in park district baseball Little League for 10 years.
Last year, he met a Maine West baseball coach and signed up for a summer baseball camp.
"(The coach) didn't think it was a problem," Chris Peterson told school board members Monday. "Unfortunately he didn't know the bylaws."
In November, Nick came to a wrestling team meeting, signed up, paid a fee, and completed a physical examination. Four days after practice began, his dad said he got a phone call from the district office to say that his son couldn't play sports at Maine West.
"I was surprised cause I didn't think they had a policy like that," Nick says.
The reason for the district policy prohibiting home-schooled students from participating in sports, according to District 207 spokesman Dave Beery, has to do with eligibility requirements set up by the Illinois High School Association, the organization that regulates interscholastic sports competition throughout the state.
Chief among those requirements are rules that a student -- whether home-schooled or not -- must be enrolled at the school, be passing 25 credit hours of work at the school or in a program the school approves, and those credit hours must count toward graduation from the school.
"District 207 would have to approve 25 credit hours every semester toward a diploma from one of our schools for a student who is not taking courses designed or taught by our teachers and who possibly hasn't even set foot in one of our schools except to participate in athletics," Beery said. "It gets into the question of how the district grants credit for graduation. That goes beyond any policy on home-schooled students."
Beery said board members would have to address those issues before revising the relevant policies governing athletic participation by home-schooled students.
The IHSA doesn't prohibit athletic participation by home-schooled students, but it doesn't mandate it either. The IHSA ultimately leaves it up to local school districts to determine whether home-schooled students may or may not participate, officials said.
Chris Peterson noted that some school districts in Illinois do allow athletic participation by home-schooled students, and 10 states mandate it for all their school districts.
He said he's already shown district officials Nick's grades, and would be willing to show them the family's home school curriculum.
Peterson, who said he paid $1,200 in property taxes to District 207 last year, said the current rules block his son and other home-schooled students from the same opportunities as other students.
"I believe it's discrimination and it doesn't benefit anybody," he said.