Diploma Fairness In Depth

Ohio Revised Code 3313.6110
Enacted June 30,2015 (Am.Sub.H.B. 64)

This newly enacted statute places a requirement in Ohio law that diplomas issued to graduates,who were home educated or were enrolled in a non-chartered nontax school, shall serve as proof of completion of the student’s high school education. Click here for the full text.

Why was it necessary to enact this statute?

Parents have been issuing diplomas to their home educated students for the past two decades and these diplomas have been used in the same way any other graduate has used a diploma to present to prospective colleges, universities or employers. It is a document that represents completion of the high school experience, nothing more.

Over the past 6 –7 years families and adults who were home educated have been contacting CHEO and HSLDA to share concerns and frustrations that the graduates were being treated in the following manner:

• Denied access to post-secondary programs
• Required to obtain a GED (a provision of Ohio law designed to be used by high school drop outs) before gaining access to certain programs
• Informed by community colleges that in order to get a professional certification in various fields, after completing a college degree, the candidate must also have a diploma from a state accredited high school
• Informed by military recruiters that a high school diploma must be state accredited
• Denied financial aid to state colleges and universities
• Denied access to jobs in Ohio and out of state
• Denied access to out of state universities
• Denied employment promotions
• Denied access to civil service positions

Each of these experiences has had the common denominator of the requirement of a “state certified” diploma. Often the graduate was expected to be perceived as a high school dropout and obtain a GED in order to be allowed access to services/programs. In some cases the graduate had earned a college degree and had been working in the field for a number of years and was denied access to new employment without the state certified diploma or GED.

The Ohio Department of Education has encouraged this practice via its description of the diploma for home educated students on its website.

From the ODE website:

Will my child earn an Ohio High School diploma?
Home-schooled students do not receive an Ohio high school diploma recognized by the State Board of Education. When pursuing employment or advanced education, these students may need to complete the GED to show equivalence to a state-recognized high school diploma. (Underlined emphasis is from the ODE source)

It hasn’t been the experience of every home educated or 08 school graduate, but the frequency of the calls, emails, etc. have continued to increase over the past two years. All of these examples are unnecessary and unreasonable forms of discrimination. These students were educated under a lawful option in Ohio law (Ohio Administrative Code 3301-34).

How does RC 3313.6110 solve the unfair practice of targeted discrimination?

1. What the new section of code does not do…

• It does not change the state regulations for home education for the student’s k-12 experience.
• It does not evaluate any aspect of the k-12 home school experience.
• It does not certify or quantify the skills or level of college readiness of the graduate. These graduates will still need to provide results of college entrance exams (e.g. ACT) with scores that comply with the threshold of college readiness expected for all students.
• It does not create a two-tier system of diplomas.
• It is not a validation by the state of the home education experience.
• It does not guarantee acceptance to a college or university.
• It does not guarantee an employer will hire the home educated candidate.
• It does not provide for a state-issued diploma.
• It does not apply to home educated graduates from other states. (No Ohio law can do that.)

It is not the intention of the newly enacted language to create any special privilege or to guarantee employment. Home educated graduates are able to compete on their own merits if given the opportunity.

2. What the new section of code does do…

In order to place in law that a diploma granted to a home educated or 08 school graduate would be satisfactory to fulfill any legal requirement to show proof of completion of high school, there would need to be language that described the issuance of such diplomas.

Paragraph (A) references the authorizing statute for the Ohio home education regulations. It recognizes the authority of the parent to issue the diploma if they choose to do so. It does not place a state requirement on parents to issue diplomas. Nothing in this paragraph undermines any aspect of the parent’s control over the k-12 experience.

Paragraph (C) permits (does not require) non-chartered nontax schools to issue a diploma for their students.

Paragraph (D) requires that a diploma granted to a home educated graduate or an 08 graduate be able to serve as proof of the successful completion of that person’s applicable curriculum and satisfactory to fulfill ANY legal requirement to show such proof.

Paragraph (E) is a direct reference to the use of the diploma in the process of applying for employment. It requires the employer to accept the diploma as proof of the completion of a high school education regardless of whether or not the graduate chose to participate in the state’s assessment system. This resolves ALL of the issues with HR departments claiming that Ohio law prevents them from considering individuals without state “certified” diplomas.

Why was paragraph (B) created?

Valid questions were raised in the drafting of the language regarding the possibility of someone fraudulently creating a home education diploma who was actually never home educated. What would prevent a 20 year old who dropped out of a public high school at age 16 from creating a diploma and falsifying that he was home educated?

Paragraph (B) was drafted and included NOT to validate the quality of the home education experience by the local superintendent, but instead to confirm that the graduate had actually been lawfully excused from compulsory attendance in compliance with the home education regulations.

The options for the parent-issued diploma are:

Beginning with July 1, 2015 (which are the graduates of 2016) the options are (B)(1) or (B)(2).

(B)(1) The parent chooses to have a diploma and statement of certification signed by the local superintendent and the local superintendent is required to sign if the home education regulations have been complied. The only means to determine if the parents have complied with the regulations is the information submitted to the superintendent in the notification process. Nothing changes except the superintendent is required to sign the diploma if requested by the parent who has complied with the regulations that have been in effect for 26 years.

In other words, there is no provision in (B)(1) that allows the superintendent to “approve” any part of the student’s k-12 experience. It is only an acknowledgement that the student was lawfully home educated.

(B)(2) The parent chooses to use the letter of excuse from compulsory attendance issued by the local superintendent only for the student’s final year of instruction.

There were several reasons this sub-paragraph was included as an option:

1. The excusal letter is a written document that the local superintendent has already been required to provide for the past 26 years. It changes nothing in the regulations and does not intrude upon the parent to conform to any new policy for the k-12 experience.
2. In essence, the local superintendent has been certifying compliance with the home education regulations with his/her signature since the regulations were first implemented.
3. IF the student is graduating it is completely logical that he/she would have an excusal letter for that final year and the family would not need any additional documentation than the Ohio regulations already provide.

Final Thoughts:

The bottom line on the enactment of RC 3313.6110 is that no one has to change anything they have been doing in the absence of unreasonable discrimination. Parents can simply continue to issue home education diplomas.

1. There is no need to automatically attach the superintendent’s letter every time the diploma is presented. If a graduate runs into an employment denial because he/she does not have a diploma from a state certified institution, the new statute provides protection from that discrimination.
2. The statute resolves every single issue that families have experienced retroactively and gives parents a “heads up” to hang onto the final excusal letter in case it is needed to confirm the graduate was home educated.
3. It is also protection for families who don’t want their grads to be equated to high school dropouts and required to get the GED. If presenting the excusal letter is offensive to a graduate, he/she does not have to use that option and can simply pursue a GED, if preferred.
4. If a school district superintendent does not issue the excusal letter in the 14 day window, the superintendent and district are out of compliance with state regulatory law. Parents should contact the district to request the letter be sent as it is a state requirement.
5. Superintendents have been confirming compliance with the home education regulations with their signature for the past 26 years. In that respect, this new statute simply uses that signature, if needed, to prevent discrimination.

We sincerely hope that this review of the legislative language as written will be helpful to all who have had some lingering questions. We appreciate those who have taken the time to express their thoughts. We are also grateful for all who have called, posted or written with words of thanks and encouragement. We are always here to serve you.