Dear Feds: Stop Discriminating Against Homeschooled Teens
by Will Estrada • March 14, 2018
This week, Home School Legal Defense Association reached out to Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta and asked him to change a regulation that’s been causing trouble for 14- and 15-year-old homeschoolers.
This regulation was written in 2010, when the Department of Labor finally sat down to define the term “school hours.” The change was important because many existing regulations apply to this specific period of time.
Unfortunately, the department defined “school hours” as “the hours that the local public school district where the minor resides while employed is in session during the regularly scheduled school year.” This ignores the fact that many students are educated at private schools and homeschools, which often have very different school hours than the local public school.
In the almost eight years since this regulation was finalized, HSLDA has heard from dozens of 14- and 15-year-old homeschoolers who had to give up valuable, rewarding employment opportunities simply because they were homeschooled.
In each case, the student had lined up a prospective employer. They were all set to follow the other labor laws and regulations (daily and weekly limits on how long they can work, what type of work they are allowed to do, etc.). But then they were told they had to follow the public school schedule—and suddenly the job could no longer work for the homeschool student or their employer.
There are good reasons for homeschoolers to have different schedules than their public school peers. Often this is because the homeschool schedule is more efficient than the public school schedule. In some cases, the homeschool student and his or her parents decide that an outside job should be incorporated into their formal homeschool program as a valuable source of training, experience, and education.
That’s why we’ve asked the Department of Labor to rethink its definition of school hours and replace it with one that recognizes the many different forms of education. We’re hopeful that they will look to the student’s actual academic schedule, which would open the door to these kinds of age-appropriate jobs for homeschooling students. We are also discussing this issue with congressional leaders, and will provide you with updates.
If your homeschool student was turned away from potential employment because of this issue, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll keep your name and the details of your situation confidential—but knowing about stories like yours helps us to discuss this issue with federal policymakers and work toward a better solution.