I Felt Betrayed’: Employer Demands Grad Resign Or Be Fired
Resign Or Be Fired
A Texas homeschool graduate had been working as a correctional officer for a few weeks when he realized his new job was something he could see himself doing for years.
He was hired in February 2023 by a private facility. “I applied, got interviewed and was hired in the same day,” he recalled. They offered training and opportunities for advancement, so it was natural for him to contemplate what the future might hold if he stayed and worked his way up through the ranks.
However, he didn’t anticipate a misunderstanding by state officials that would threaten to cut short his career.
Under the administration of his parents, he’d finished high school in 2020 and received his diploma from an accredited distance-learning academy based in Oklahoma.
Security and More
The facility where he works houses about 1,000 inmates who spend a good deal of their time attending courses intended to help them reintegrate into society once they complete their incarceration.
He began by pulling 12-hour overnight shifts, focusing on security.
After nightfall, he said, “It’s very quiet. There’s not a lot going on.” During the day, he added, “we make sure the inmates stay out of trouble and get to their classes on time.”
Despite the long shifts, the graduate took advantage of opportunities for earning overtime. He also looked into the requirements for earning promotions to supervisory positions.
In April, however, what should have been a routine administrative matter resulted in him nearly losing his job because of confusion over his homeschool education.
Officials from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) audited the private facility, which is run by a private contractor to house people who have been processed through the court system.
The contractor had hired the graduate after confirming that his credentials fulfilled state requirements for his particular job. But during the audit, state officials mistakenly insisted that the graduate was ineligible because he had been homeschooled.
“The state officials told me I couldn’t work there anymore because my diploma was not valid,” the graduate said. “My employer gave me a choice of being terminated or resigning. I felt betrayed. I had thought I wouldn’t mind having this as a forever job.”
The graduate was suspended that same day. At home, he talked to his parents about how to go about demonstrating to authorities they were mistaken and acting unjustly.
His mom told him: “We know someone who can help with this.”
A Welcome Reversal
The family contacted Home School Legal Defense Association for assistance. Peter Kamakawiwoole, HSLDA director of litigation, worked with the graduate to assemble proof of his eligibility for the job.
Texas regulations state that candidates for correctional officer positions must hold a high school diploma from a state-accredited school or any private school. Kamakawiwoole pointed out to authorities that the graduate qualified for the job based on either of these criteria.
First, he had been homeschooled under the direction of his parents. And, as Kamakawiwoole explained, Texas law has long considered homeschooling to be private schooling, as established in the case of Texas Education Agency v. Leeper. Secondly, the graduate’s high school diploma had been issued through an academy that is accredited.
“I’m not sure why TDCJ was unaware of the policy,” said Kamakawiwoole. “But once we made them aware of it, they accepted the graduate’s credentials.”
About a week after HSLDA intervened, the graduate was asked to resume his work at the correctional facility. He is now working the day shift and looking forward to additional training.
“I’m really happy I got my job back,” he said.
HSLDA President Jim Mason noted that, though we’ve made considerable progress in securing equal recognition for homeschool graduates, discrimination cases like this one in Texas still occur.
“Two generations of homeschoolers continue to demonstrate that they are bright, capable, hard-working individuals who can bring value to any workplace,” he said. “Many employers welcome, and even prize homeschool graduates for the positives they offer.”
HSLDA remains committed to advocating for homeschool graduates in situations where employers wrongfully dismiss their parent-issued diplomas as inadequate. As part of this effort, we’re continuing to press for legislation that prohibits discrimination based on education.
Newsletter Editor/Staff Writer
Dave Dentel writes and edits content for HSLDA’s website. He especially enjoys getting to interview bright, articulate homeschooled students.