MILLBURN, NJ — Continuing a push that had started at the Millburn Board of Education (BOE) Meeting on Oct. 7, The Friedrichsen family again appeared before the board with an appeal.
The family is asking the board to reconsider their decision not to allow Hunter, who is homeschooled, to wrestle with the Millburn High School team. The board previously heard remarks at that Oct. 7 meeting from supporters of Hunter and his parents Donny and Kim.
At issue is Millburn BOE Policy 2431, Item 2, which states in summation that the school district does not currently allow home schooled students to participate in high school interscholastic athletic programs.
Hunter and his family are seeking a change to the policy.
For Hunter's mother Kim, the outpouring of support from the community on the matter has been a major source of support for her and the rest of the family.
"When we first started homeschooling, I knew that it wouldn't be guaranteed that we'd be able to do sports in high school," Kim said. "In fact, we weren't sure how far we would be willing to go to ask for that. "
"But when the community started rallying around us-the wrestlers, the coaches, the parents of the wrestlers and other community members that just heard about the issue at hand-when we saw that rally happen around us, we just had to keep pushing for it," she added. "And so it meant a lot to us to know that we weren't alone in the quest to see Hunter play."
As was the case at the Oct. 7 meeting, Hunter was joined by members of the Millburn community and wrestlers from the high school. Since the initial meeting, residents have circulated a hashtag reading #LetHunterPlay to show their support for the teen.
While the speakers in the public comment section again advocated for Hunter, the board held fast on its decision, and would not reopen the matter at the current time.
Board President Alex Zaltsman explained the board's reasoning in his statement, which read in part;
"The request to allow non-enrolled resident students access to the high school athletics continues to be discussed amongst members of our community.
At our last meeting the members of the policy committee went into great detail of their rationale for not recommending that we change the policy."
Specifically, the policy committee pointed to what they see as an issue of academic equivalency, in which they feel that they would be unable to properly enforce the requirements for the statute set forth by the NJSIAA.
In order to judge academic equivalency against what they described as a rigorous study program in Millburn, the board felt that the conditions were too fluid to be accurately measured.
As a result, discussion on the matter is now ended by the current board with a low likelihood of being picked back up unless the situation changes drastically.
Additionally, the district noted in their FAQ sheet that even though schools next door in the SOMA school district allow for homeschooled athletes, it is an exception to the standard state-wide.
Speaking in the hallway after the meeting, Hunter said that while he was disappointed, he and his family would most likely continue pushing the issue when a new board is sworn in next year.
"They get to choose what happens, and so yeah, I'm upset and yeah, things didn't turn out how I wanted them to," Hunter said. "But that said, sad things happen sometimes. So we'll try again in January."