Christian homeschoolers cry discrimination after trade schools ask for proof they learned something
Girl reading and studying the Bible (Stutterstock)

Homeschoolers says it's unfair that they must prove they've obtained high school-level academic skills to become a police officer or enter trade school.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is challenging requirements by cosmetology and vocational schools that incoming students show a high school diploma or pass a GED exam to gain admittance.

“A homeschool graduate is accepted into a cosmetology or vocational school — but then, like a bolt from above, the admissions office reverses course,” said William Estrada, HSLDA director of federal relations. “Officials tell the applicant that the school cannot accept homeschoolers.”

The Christian legal advocacy group has handled numerous calls from homeschooled young adults who say they were turned away from trade schools or police departments because they had not passed a General Educational Development exam -- which they say graduates of traditional high schools are not required to do.

"Vocational schools are more likely to be audited for compliance with federal higher education laws," Estrada said. "They’re worried that if they accept a homeschooler who doesn’t have the documentation of a public school graduate, it could cost the vocational school its accreditation."

The HSLDA is representing two candidates who Christian legal advocates say were turned away from the Ithaca, New York, Police Department because they had not earned high school diplomas or the equivalent -- even though both went on to graduate from state colleges.

“One had a bachelor’s degree and the other was a qualified emergency medical technician,” said TJ Schmidt, a staff attorney for HSLDA. “Despite their success in higher education, these graduates were essentially being told to go back to high school.”

The HSLDA claims the police department is violating state law governing educational requirements for officers, which the group argues should permit the two women to join because they hold "a comparable diploma" to high school or its equivalent.

The group is awaiting a response from city officials in Ithaca and will pursue further legal action if the two homeschooled women are not accepted as candidates.

Estrada admits his group had not succeeded in all of its challenges because most vocational schools are privately run and may therefore set their own admission standards -- which he complained allowed them to "discriminate against homeschoolers."

The legal advocate melodramatically related comments made by the president of a cosmetology school -- whose voice, he said, was "shaking with rage."

“I will not let a homeschool graduate into my school unless he or she has a GED," the school official allegedly told HSLDA attorneys. "My brother had a GED, and if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for a homeschool graduate.”

The HSLDA has been urging the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS) to loosen its requirements for homeschooled students, and the legal group said the board's leadership had encouraged affiliated trade schools to accept those students "with open arms."

Estrada recommended that homeschooled students should present "a parent-issued high school diploma, a high school transcript, and evidence of compliance with your state’s homeschool law" when applying to cosmetology or vocational school.

He urged families to contact HSLDA if the school refuses admittance or requires a GED.