Homeschool graduate and Dothan, Alabama, municipal employee Harrison McGriff is excited about the prospect of beginning firefighter training later this summer.
This promising development toward fulfilling his career goals represents a dramatic turnaround from just a few weeks ago, when a personnel clerk told Harrison that his parent-issued diploma disqualified him from applying for the job he wanted.
Harrison finished high school in 2019 while he was living with his family in Florida. Simultaneously with fulfilling the requirements for his secondary education, he also earned 29 dual-enrollment credits from St. Petersburg College and Embry‑Riddle Aeronautical University. After graduating, he took additional courses at Troy University.
He thought about entering the military, but then he saw that the city of Dothan—where some his family still lived—was looking for firefighter recruits. Because that career would provide many of same challenges and benefits that the military would (including the opportunity to pursue paramedic training), Harrison explained, “I decided to take a swing at it.”
That’s when discrimination brought his plans to a sudden stop. After reviewing his application, a Dothan city official told Harrison that his academic credentials did not qualify him for the job because his homeschool high school diploma came from an unaccredited school.
Facing a New Obstacle
Harrison said the rejection stung deeply.
“I had worked so hard to get my diploma,” he said. “I’m only a few credit hours away from getting my associate’s degree. But I was told I had to get a GED.”
While Harrison was being homeschooled, his family had maintained a membership with Home School Legal Defense Association. So facing this brick wall now, they reached out to us for help.
HSLDA Staff Attorney Dan Beasley wrote to Dothan officials, explaining that Harrison’s mother had homeschooled her son in compliance with state law. “Notably absent from Florida law,” he pointed out, “is any requirement that homeschooled students be enrolled in an accredited program.”
Beasley added that both Florida and Alabama “recognize and legally protect all parent-issued homeschool diplomas.” Further, he wrote: “There is no requirement under Alabama state law that firefighters in particular possess a high school diploma from an accredited institution.”
Harrison reported that, shortly after Dothan officials heard from HSLDA, they reached out to offer him a job.
With confidence and hope renewed, he can now focus on gaining the skills and knowledge to serve his community in an even more hands-on role—pursuing his dreams of becoming a firefighter and paramedic.
Now that this bureaucratic misunderstanding is behind him, “I feel pretty good,” Harrison said.