Police no longer locking out homeschoolers
Becoming a cop has now been made easier for homeschool graduates looking to join their local police force in Arizona.
Before new policy changes were made and adopted by the board that oversees the standards for police training in the Grand Canyon State, pursuing a career in law enforcement was made much more difficult for homeschoolers than their peers who attended conventional public and private schools.
Conforming to what the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) have been recommending for some time, the soon-to-be enforced policy now allows parents to self-certify their homeschool students’ completion of high school — with minimal verification of compliance with state law. This change will significantly level the playing field for homeschool students.
In prior years, homeschoolers had a number of obstacles to hurdle before becoming eligible to pursue a career in law Arizona enforcement.
“This represents a vast improvement over previous practices, when homeschool graduates were asked to present ‘accredited’ diplomas or obtain a GED in order to apply for jobs as peace officers or correctional officers in Arizona,” HSLDA reports. “Reform efforts began after several Arizona homeschool graduates contacted both HSLDA and AFHE to report that their homeschool diplomas and transcripts had been questioned when they applied for jobs as police officers or sheriff’s deputies.”
Easier steps to the badge
To solve the problem, both nonprofit organizations urged the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board (AZ POST) — whose job is to establish and maintain the minimum education standards needed to become a peace officer or correctional officer in the state of Arizona — to make it as easy for homeschoolers to enter law enforcement as it is for traditionally educated students.
To make sure the changes were implemented, HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt and ADHE advocate Tom Lewis corroborated with the AZ POST. Both impressed the fact to the state-run agency that homeschool graduates — who had complied with state law in their homeschool programs — had to face difficult roadblocks that public and private school students aspiring to become police officers did not have to overcome.
“Most of these homeschool graduates had provided a homeschool diploma and transcripts to demonstrate that they had completed high school,” Schmidt expressed. “While Arizona does not require a homeschool student to complete specific high school credits in order to graduate, a homeschool student applying to be a peace officer or seeking admission into college should follow the same credit guidelines necessary to graduate from a public school.”
However, it was not easy to persuade state officials that the same door of opportunity opened to traditionally educated children should be kept open for homeschoolers.
“Some at AZ POST wanted the Arizona Department of Education to certify each homeschool student’s completion of high school or have homeschool students take a GED if they didn’t have an ‘accredited’ diploma,” the pro-family attorney continued. “HSLDA and AFHE objected to these proposals.”
Schmidt and Lewis then pressed the AZ POST to set reasonable standards for homeschoolers so that they wouldn’t give up by having to jump through endless hoops in order to try and become eligible to become cops.
“We pointed out that state law does not require homeschool diplomas to be certified by state education officials and provides no procedure by which this could occur,” HSLDA explained. “Instead, Schmidt argued that homeschool parents should be able to provide their students’ homeschool diplomas and transcripts along with verification of their compliance with state law (i.e. a copy of the home education affidavit they filed with their local county).”
Policy in place
The AZ POST amended rule R13-4-105 last December. Even though it will not officially go into effect until August 6, HSLDA and AFHE are confident that homeschool graduates will start to be processed by AZ POST immediately. The new version of the law reads:
“[An applicant for police training is required to have] a diploma from a high school recognized by the department of education of the jurisdiction in which the diploma was issued, have successfully completed a General Education Development (G.E.D.) examination, or have a degree from an institution of higher education accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education,” rule R13-4-105 now states.
Arizona Assistant Attorney General Michael Salt recently published an interoffice memo through the AZ POST declaring that homeschool graduates will meet the minimum education requirements when they comply with state law and provide documentation showing that they completed the equivalent of a high school education at home.
The three requirements outlining what the AZ POST expects to see when homeschool graduates apply for peace officer or correction officer positions within the state are stated below:
- A copy of an affidavit from the applicant’s county of residence, confirming that the applicant was registered for homeschooling in accordance with ARS § 15-802, including the date of registration if the student was between the ages of 8 and 16 when withdrawn from public school
- Educational transcripts, signed by the student’s parent or guardian
- A diploma, letter and/or affidavit indicating that the student has successfully completed a high school equivalent education. A parent could also provide a copy of any document which they might have submitted to notify the county superintendent the student had completed the homeschool program (not legally required but occasionally done when the child graduates early),” the new standards read
Even though things are expected to run smoothly with the new policy in place, HSLDA is monitoring how the new process is carried out to ensure that homeschoolers aspiring to join the police force don’t come along any more undue or unexpected roadblocks.
“While individual agencies across the state who are looking to hire new peace officers or corrections officers may implement additional requirements, we believe homeschool graduates will be able to pursue a position in law enforcement with greater ease due to the new AZ POST rule and policy,” HSLDA attorneys conclude. “We will continue to watch several graduates who are seeking to join local police departments.”