Energy company rescinds job offer to Ohio homeschooler

by Andrew Branch
Posted 5/07/14, 10:32 am

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and much of the homeschooling community are bristling after an Indiana-based energy company rescinded a job offer to a home-educated graduate.

Multi-state energy giant NiSource Inc., rebuffed the inquiries of HSLDA staff attorney Mike Donnelly on behalf of the prospective employee, and Donnelly wrote about the situation on the group’s website Monday. The Ohio man in his early 20s doesn’t want to be named, Donnelly said, but he previously worked for a subcontractor of NiSource subsidiary Columbia Pipeline Group.

The man graduated from high school in 2010. His transcripts were “well done,” Donnelly said. He had even taken seven community college classes and made the Dean’s List. He also had “several” professional certifications and years of experience at the pipeline group. NiSource colleagues suggested the man apply for another job, which only required a high school education. The company offered him the position, but after managers found out about his homeschooling during a required background check, they rescinded the offer.

“We need a recognized, objective, across-the-board means to verify educational qualifications no matter the means an individual pursued their education,” communications manager Mike Banas told me. Companies often make college degrees a blanket requirement, and NiSource simply created a similar blanket for jobs only needing a high school education. Regardless of state, only official certifications will do—not transcripts, grades, or even college credits.

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.

This case is unique, though, because the man had a job offer. “It flabbergasts me that a human resources department is going to look at a young man with years of industry experience, certifications, and college courses, and they’re going to say, ‘Show me a public school diploma or a GED,’” Donnelly said.

This situation is more common in Ohio, and HSLDA is working with the state legislature to allow home-educators to issue diplomas that carry weight, Donnelly said. But simply informing employers usually works. “This is unusual that we have this kind of recalcitrance on the part of a company,” Donnelly said.

In theory, the applicant could probably take the GED exam and get the job. But for Donnelly and many other homeschoolers, revoking the job offer was an insult. “I mean, a GED? A GED is what people who drop out of high school take,” Donnelly said. “Homeschoolers are not high school dropouts.”

According to HSLDA statistics, 74 percent of homeschool students go on to pursue a college degree, or at least take some college courses. Only 46 percent of the general population attends college.

Although the Ohio situation is somewhat unusual, Donnelly said NiSource’s view is becoming more common. HSLDA expects slights to homeschoolers to increase under the new Common Core curriculum and its “career-ready” standards. “Companies like NiSource and others are going to get on the political correctness bandwagon and require it because they want to support the system, and they’re going to discriminate against our kids,” he said.

NiSource can hire as it pleases, but Donnelly said HSLDA will expose companies that persist in such “nonsensical” policies: “NiSource’s discriminatory practice reflects a narrow-minded and statist view of education that is inconsistent with the values of a free society.”

NiSource maintains it’s not against homeschooling. The NiSource Charitable Foundation just awarded a merit scholarship to a homeschooled senior in Indiana. But when it comes to employment, NiSource offers no exceptions.

Andrew Branch

Andrew is a freelance writer living in Raleigh, N.C. He was homeschooled for 12 years and recently graduated from N.C. State University. He writes about sports and poverty for WORLD. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewABranch.

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