Homeschooling in the Headlines
By Mari B. Buckroth
It would appear, by the way the headlines are reading that there is a rise in ‘discrimination’ against homeschool high school graduates. We understand that headlines sell papers and grab the public’s attention so after researching the story via various website reports, N.A.S.H.’s Executive Director, Mari B. Buckroth, contacted NiSource in an effort to fully understand what actually transpired. The media contact at NiSource, Mike Banas, spoke with Ms. Buckroth to answer questions on the company’s hiring practices and their position on homeschoolers.
But first, what happened?
A homeschooling association reported, via a blog post, that a young man was offered a position with NiSource that was withdrawn once it was learned that he did not have an Ohio high school degree. He was a homeschool graduate and the organization that originally reported this story intimated that NiSource is discriminating against homeschoolers, and furthermore that there is a ‘rise’ in the hiring practices of corporations that discriminate against homeschoolers. “At this time the exact circumstances of the specific incident are unknown as NiSource does not discuss specific applicants, for obvious reasons, and the only information being provided from the young man’s viewpoint has come via a third-party representative
Almost all the information on the internet has been reported by lesser known sources who have reported the story from a decided point of view. While N.A.S.H. certainly believes that homeschool high school graduates should be afforded the same level of consideration and opportunity as any other high school graduate, we do not believe that this young man was singled out and rejected because he was a homeschooled graduate. The real issue is not that NiSource discriminated against a homeschooler, but that NiSource was conducting its hiring practices set by the company – a high school diploma is a minimum requirement for employment – which are in keeping with the laws of the state in which they are hiring. The laws in Ohio – high school transcripts and/or diplomas are not recognized as legitimate documentation – created an issue for this man’s employment. The problem in this case is with the LAW in Ohio and that is where the focus of this story should be.
As Mike Banas told other news outlets, “To be clear, NiSource is happy to hire qualified home-schooled candidates as part of our team. In fact, among our 8,000+ current employees, we are proud to have colleagues and coworkers who were home-schooled or received other non-traditional educations. We value them as strong, skilled contributors to our organization. To state our position otherwise is factually inaccurate and misleading.” According to Mr. Banas, if a homeschooled candidate meets the educational requirements as established by the position for which they are applying and those requirements can be verified via a legal background check, that candidate is eligible for hiring. Banas said that job offers made by the company are contingent on a background check, including verification of education, employment history, as well as criminal background, DMV review, and drug testing which all candidates are made aware.
And he went on further to say:
Banas said NiSource wishes to hire qualified people who will contribute to the success of the company. “To achieve that goal, we do our best to provide fair and consistent hiring criteria for all available positions. The fact is, when it comes to positions that require only a high school education, some of the states in which we operate have different rules regarding certification of home school and other non-traditional forms of study,” he said. “For example, some states do not certify home school diplomas but suggest that students secure a GED or other evidence of certification. For instance, the Ohio Department of Education specifically notes that when looking for employment or pursuing advanced education, home-schooled students may need to complete the GED.”
And there is this statement from the Ohio DOE:
“NiSource did nothing illegal. Homeschooled students do not receive an Ohio high school diploma recognized by the State Board of Education,” according to the Ohio Department of Education. The DOE warns graduates they may need a GED for work or college and that “employers have discretion” whether or not to accept homeschoolers’ credentials.
So, it would seem, at this point homeschoolers in Ohio need to work on getting the law changed so that their homeschool transcripts are legitimized by the state so they may be used to create a high school diploma for homeschoolers. Everyone who is currently or is planning to homeschool for high school should check their state requirements and laws as it pertains to graduating high school as a homeschooler, and either ensure that those requirements as dictated by the state are met or actively work to have the requirements legally changed. What doesn’t need to happen is for homeschooling associations to report the incident in such a way that headlines such as these are created: “Homeschoolers Need Not Apply” or “Company Bans Homeschooler Workers”
Why does it matter?
Homeschooling is a legitimate, legal educational choice that grows at a rate faster than other educational options. That fact alone could create a ‘push back’ that the homeschooling community will have to face and overcome. The last thing the homeschooling community needs is to create or report issues in such a way that could make the homeschooling community appear hostile, untruthful, or unnecessarily antagonistic. NiSource does not have a policy of discrimination against homeschoolers, and they do in fact have employees who were homeschooled and/or are currently homeschooling their own children. NiSource operates in several states and they follow the law of the state as it outlines what constitutes legitimate educational certifications. The law, as it pertains to homeschooled high school graduates, should be the focus of this issue. The causes with which we work to resolve or further in the homeschooling community need to be accurately focused, not blindly flung.