Homeschooled Drivers Stalled by the DMV
by Dan Beasley • October 16, 2019
DMV officials in Tennessee and North Carolina threw up roadblocks for homeschooled teens trying to obtain driver’s licenses—until HSLDA intervened.
The Nguyen family had homeschooled in Nebraska, where their 16-year-old son, Christian, graduated a week before the family moved to Tennessee.
Aware of the requirement to present his high school diploma, Christian brought the document along when he and his mother went to apply for his driver’s license at the Tennessee DMV.
However, after enduring the long line, they received bad news. A DMV official told Christian that because his diploma was from a Nebraska homeschool program that was not accredited, he wasn’t eligible to get a driver’s license until he turned 18. What DMV staff didn’t know is that Nebraska homeschool programs are specifically exempt from state accreditation and approval.
Waiting two years to get a license would have put his employment and educational plans on hold. So, the family contacted HSLDA.
We wrote a letter to the employee at the DMV who had been working with the Nguyens. We explained that Christian’s high school diploma was legitimate and was acceptable proof of high school graduation for obtaining a driver’s license.
The week after we sent the letter, the Nguyens decided to brave the DMV lines to apply for the license again, this time bringing a copy of HSLDA’s letter along with Christian’s high school documents. Once more, they left empty-handed after being told that the DMV legal department would need to review HSLDA’s letter and Christian’s diploma and transcript.
Almost four weeks later, the Nguyens called us with an update. The official at the DMV who had been corresponding with the Nguyens about Christian’s diploma was out of the office, but a co-worker was checking the official’s email during his absence.
She opened the email from HSLDA and read our letter. She called the Nguyens and told them that Christian’s diploma would be accepted, adding that this situation should never have happened in the first place. Now, Christian is free to drive.
Different State, Same Problem
Around the same time, a homeschool student in North Carolina was facing a similar obstacle after moving from Texas.
This student had not yet graduated and was being told upon moving into the state that she was unable to apply for her learner’s permit because she was homeschooled. The problem was caused by the Division of Non-Public Education’s (DNPE) refusal to issue her parents the correct form for verifying satisfactory academic progress in school.
Her parents corresponded with state officials extensively, but the officials wouldn’t listen.
I wrote the DNPE director clarifying that the student was lawfully educated out of state before moving into North Carolina and demanding that the state release the appropriate form. They issued the form the next business day.
We’re grateful for the work of the DMV staff who were eventually able to help these families obtain a license to drive, but unfamiliarity with homeschooling laws (particularly those of other states) occasionally causes trouble for homeschooled students. If you encounter this problem, please feel free to contact us. We’re happy to help!