Entering her sophomore year of high school at home in the fall of 2021, Siara wanted to join the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program at her local public high school. 

Her parents tried for months to get an appointment with school officials before the start of the school year. Finally, the week before the start of scheduled classes, the school contacted them.

School officials told the family there was not a clear process for Siara to join as a homeschool student and expressed concerns that she might not receive academic credit for her participation in the JROTC program. The school also said that, as a homeschooler, Siara might not be able to participate in all the JROTC activities. 

What the school district had not thoroughly researched, and what Siara’s family didn’t understand, is that this reply conflicted with the law. Federal regulations state that public schools must permit membership in JROTC to qualified homeschooled students. Schools cannot require enrollment as a condition of JROTC membership.

Quick Decision

With only 24 hours to decide whether or not to participate in JROTC, Siara and her parents found themselves in a stressful and perplexing position. Siara’s parents wanted their daughter to receive full credit for all her courses and hard work. So they decided she would enroll in the local high school even though she had been homeschooled for the four prior years.

Despite being new to Navy JROTC, Siara excelled in the program. She earned the highest GPA not only in the local squadron but also in any JROTC program in the county public school system. 

Pleased with her daughter’s achievements the first year, Siara’s mom attributed her success to the foundation her daughter received: “It is a testament to the difference that homeschool can [make].”

However, this HSLDA member family was determined to find a solution that would allow Siara to continue to participate in Navy JROTC and return to homeschooling. So they reached out to our legal team for assistance. 

Going back to the Law

We contacted the detachment commander, the local high school, and the district—explaining the federal law that requires that homeschooled students be permitted to join the resident school program if the student meets all other eligibility requirements. 

After the family met with the principal and JROTC leadership, the school notified Siara that she will be able to continue with JROTC this upcoming 2022-2023 school year and return to homeschooling.

Siara’s mother said she is grateful to HSLDA “for all [their] help and time . . . to get this opportunity for Siara.” 

More Work Ahead

Commenting on the school’s decision, the detachment commander stated he is “thrilled to welcome any student who shows the interest and determination” to be successful in the program.  He anticipates a “steady increase in interest” from the homeschool community and “look[s] forward to those who will come behind [Siara].”

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated instance involving JRTOC programs. HSLDA is advocating for students in three different states where schools or districts have denied homeschool students the opportunity to participate in JROTC. We hope to report a favorable outcome for all of these soon.

HSLDA is keeping an eye on this trend and stands ready to assist our member families in advocating for a homeschooled students’ ability to participate in JROTC.