By Tim Waggoner

  NASHVILLE, TN, May 30, 2008 ( – Five people in Tennessee, who hold homeschool diplomas, have recently been deemed unqualified for certain positions of employment because of their homeschooling.  Since last year, the Tennessee Department of Education has begun withholding approval of such diplomas, but Representative Mile Bell has been fighting to gain back the recognition these diplomas previously enjoyed. 

  Bell told that until last year, no person in Tennessee had ever had an issue with an employer for holding a category IV diploma – the official title of diplomas issued to private church-related students, including homeschooled students. 

  Recently, however, employers that are required by statute to hire only those persons with a high school diploma, including the police department, day-care workers and education workers, have either suspended or denied employment to five category IV diploma holders. 

  After graduating with a 4.0 average from a police academy, one Rockwood police officer lost his certification, possibly deeming all of his arrests invalid, “because the DOE refused to recognize his category IV diploma.”  Bell also mentioned that this occurred seven years after the officer received his category IV high school diploma.

  Likewise, Bell mentioned four daycare workers who have been deemed unqualified to carry out their responsibilities because they have category IV diplomas.

  The representative was also keen to point out that many institutions of higher education, such as Harvard, grant scholarships based on such diplomas.

  According to Bell, “It is hard to put a finger on when the Department of Education stopped giving full recognition to category IV diplomas.  Throughout the course of four meetings with the DOE, they were either unable or refused to answer this question clearly.”  Bell does not understand why the problem occurred because homeschool diplomas have been part of a statute since 1976. 

  He suggested one incident that might have acted as a catalyst for the change. In February of 2007, the Control of the State of Tennessee audited the DOE, and was displeased to see that the department was not regulating category IV diplomas and the curriculum related to them.

  Yet, Bell commented on the fact that one of the main reasons parents choose to homeschool their children is so they do not have to use state provided curriculum and testing.

“Regulating category IV diplomas leads to regulating home school curriculum, but I believe parents have a God-given right to choose their child’s education.”

  In an effort to protect homeschooling in the state of Tennessee, Representative Bell has been spearheading an effort to establish a compromise with the DOE.  After several negotiation periods with the department, as well as proposing a bill to the legislative process, Bell believes that category IV diplomas will once again gain the recognition they deserve.

  He speculates that a person holding such a diploma, who applies for a position with an agency that requires by statute their employees to possess high school diplomas, will have to write a standardized test, receiving a grade no lower than a C. Homeschooled students have a reputation for often achieving academic test results well above the average of students from pubic education institutions.