State agency won’t abide by Kasich’s homeschool law
An Ohio state agency overseen by former Republican presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) is refusing to implement a law he signed last year by not hiring a fully qualified applicant — for the sole reason that he was homeschooled.
The Ohio Department of Corrections has consistently refused to even discuss hiring Gabriel Sage, who has received accolades from his managers for the work he has already performed in state prisons and county jails — a fact that has been impressed to the agency by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) numerous times.
Kasich — who dropped out of his White House run earlier this week after coming in third in Tuesday night’s Indiana Primary behind GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and now former candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — has been a valuable supporter of homeschooling in Ohio, and his state agency’s reluctance to enforce his pro-home education legislation is disturbing to many.
“It was Kasich who signed the 2015 law that said homeschooled graduates would be treated the same as anyone else for purposes of employment or admission to higher education opportunities,” HSLDA reports. “Nevertheless, when Mr. Sage applied to a corrections officer position with a Trumbull County facility, officials rejected his application, saying they would not consider any homeschool diplomas issued prior to July 1, 2015.”
After Sage graduated in Ohio from a legally recognized homeschool in 2009, he was immediately as hired as a corrections officer by the Morrow County Sheriff’s office, where he also worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its handling of federal inmates. All of his dealings with law enforcement have testified to his exemplary performance.
“He was hired a year later as a corrections officer at the North Central Corrections Institution in Marion, Ohio, which is operated by the Management and Training Corporation (MTC) — at this point Sage was employed by a private company, but he did the same work he would be doing if hired as a state corrections officer,” the Christian legal group pointed out. “Sage left his position with MTC in order to be closer to his family, [and] upon his departure, he was commended by his leadership.”
When Sage applied to the local corrections system after having moved again, he was told that his former homeschooling precluded him from submitting his application.
“They denied my application for the reason being that I was homeschooled,” Sage maintained. “They said I had to take the GED or they wouldn’t even consider my application.”
The former homeschooler asserts that with his documented and legitimate education — by Ohio state law — there is no valid reason as to why his application should be refused.
“My parents complied with the law for homeschooling,” the aspiring officer explained. “I provided all of the letters of excuse from the superintendent to show that we had complied with the law during that time.”
He also argues that his outstanding work history in law enforcement gives the agency no excuse to deny his application.
“Both the county sheriff’s office and private prison system I worked for had no problem with my graduation credentials,” Sage added. “It doesn’t make sense that the Ohio government would reject my education, which is recognized under the law.”
No legal explanation for denial
HSLDA Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly has worked with Sage on the matter and agrees that by refusing to acknowledge Kasich’s pro-homeschooling law and denying Sage’s application, the corrections agency is being unreasonably stubborn and unjust.
“I’ve never had such a difficult time with a government agency,” Donnelly insists. “I have written two letters, and Mr. Sage has made numerous phone calls to seek a response. I explained that Mr. Sage’s education credentials are more than sufficient under Ohio law and at the very least worthy of consideration, [b]ut I never got even so much as a courtesy reply to any of my letters — not a phone call, not an email … nothing. I found the Ohio government agency’s conduct to be both unprofessional and unreasonable.”
Donnelly submitting a letter to Ohio Corrections Department Senior Analyst and Assessment Coordinator Tami Hamlin in January and another to Ohio Corrections Department Director Gary Mohr in March, fully explaining why Sage’s application should be accepted.
“Here is a young man who has significant corrections experience, and the only reason they won’t even consider his application is because of his homeschooled education,” the pro-family attorney contended. “Ohio law does not allow this kind of discriminatory treatment, and decisions handed down by the Ohio Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have held that home education is equivalent to ‘recognized and accredited’ education and is the ‘legal equivalent of attending a public, private or parochial school.’”
He also confirmed that the former homeschooler has met all the legal requirements regarding his education, according to Ohio state law.
“Mr. Sage provided the department copies of the official excuse letters for every year of his high school education, going far above what is required of home educate high school graduates of July 1, 2015, and beyond,” Donnelly continued. “The department’s treatment of Mr. Sage is unacceptable, and I would like to see senior Ohio government leadership intervene to correct this unfair treatment.”
Donnelly explained to the department that he would rather not have to take legal action over such a matter — one that should be immediately taken care of because the facts in favor of Sage are overwhelming.
“We prefer to try to resolve these kinds of issues directly with companies and agencies as much as possible,” the lawyer for the nonprofit legal organization impressed. “It’s very disappointing to me that this government agency has not responded at all to my correspondence.”
Sage’s family sought legal advice from HSLDA after state corrections officials directly informed the homeschool graduate — beginning with Hamlin’s email to him on December 9 — that they were leaning toward a problematic interpretation of the homeschool diploma fairness law signed by Gov. Kasich.
“[P]rior to July 1, 2015 we did not accept high school diplomas,” Hamlin wrote. “The school had to be recognized by the Ohio Department of Education. Beginning with homeschool diplomas issued on or after July 1, 2015, we can accept homeschool diplomas as long as it is granted under section 3313.6110 of the revised code.”
This message was followed by Ohio Corrections Department Assessment Specialist Lisa Carty’s message written on December 16 to Sage that his homeschool education rendered him ineligible to be accepted by the agency.
“We appreciate your interest in the Ohio Department of Corrections regarding the position of correction officer,” Carty’s communication began. “After careful review of the transcripts and by contacting the department of education regarding your high school diploma, it has been determined that you do not meet minimum qualifications required for this position at this time. Candidates [who] received their high school diploma prior to July 1, 2015 and [who] want to become eligible … will be required to obtain a GED.”
After Sage’s parents saw the state agency would not budge, they decided to invite the legal representation of HSLDA, which had already successfully fought against numerous colleges and government agencies in Ohio that have illegally discriminated against homeschooled students.
“HSLDA resolved virtually all such disputes readily in favor of the homeschool graduate,” the group of attorneys based in Purcellville, Virginia, noted. “Homeschooling is a legal form of education recognized under Ohio law and in Ohio courts, and there has never been a valid reason to discriminate against homeschool graduates. The diploma fairness act was passed in order to clarify this fact so that homeschool graduates would be treated the same as graduates from any other form of education in Ohio.”
According to Donnelly, the interpretation of state law and outright denial of Sage’s application by the Ohio Corrections Department is utterly unjust and fails to acknowledge the entire reasoning behind the legislation signed by Kasich.
“The Department of Corrections is using a law intended to help homeschoolers to discriminate against them,” Donnelly contends. “Although the law went into effect on July 1, 2015, that is no reason to go against court decisions and common sense. The department’s policy wrongfully and unlawfully discriminates against qualified Ohio citizens. The Ohio government needs to correct this.”
Even in the midst of the roadblocks erected by the Ohio Corrections Department, Sage is resolved to push forward with his aspirations to serve again in law enforcement.
“I would really like to work for the Ohio Department of Corrections,” Sage insisted. “I have already worked for the state prison system, and it is the next logical step for me in my career in law enforcement. That’s why I applied for this open position.”
Sage sees light at the end of the tunnel and is eager to look past his frustrating experience with the state’s discriminatory treatment of applicants based on the sole reason that they were educated at home — rather than via conventional schools.
“I’m sure my parents never expected that I would be treated this way just because I was homeschooled — [and] I don’t think it’s right,” Sage concluded. “Homeschooling is recognized under the law and homeschooled students have to meet specified criteria that is reviewed by the superintendent who issues the excuse … I still hope that it will be possible for the Department of Corrections to hire me.”
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