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West Virginia

August 21, 2015

DMV Lets Homeschoolers Drive

Mike Donnelly
Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in West Virginia. He and his wife homeschool.
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Few things are more exasperating than being told, after finally reaching the clerk’s window at your local DMV office, that you lack the “proper paperwork” to get whatever it was you came for.

Yet this sort of exasperation used to be commonplace for homeschool students applying for their learner’s permit or driver’s license. But thanks to a new law, homeschoolers no longer face this bureaucratic discrimination.

The problem stemmed from a West Virginia measure that uses the driving privilege as an incentive to keep young people in school. Teens under 18 are required to prove they are enrolled in school—or that they have completed high school—in order to receive their learner’s permit and driver’s license.

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Invalidated

Sadly, homeschool graduates found their parent-issued diplomas routinely dismissed as “invalid.” Despite the fact that their diplomas were perfectly valid, the graduates often had to obtain the recognition of their local board of education before they could make the DMV budge.

So HSLDA Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly worked with Senator Robert Karnes, who sponsored SB 447, the bill that finally fixed this unfair situation. It declared that homeschool diplomas must be treated the same as any other high school diploma. SB 447 was passed unanimously in the 2015 legislative session.

Despite the clear language of the new law, some Division of Motor Vehicles offices continued to reject homeschool diplomas. After being contacted by several families having difficulty with the DMV in light of the new law, HSLDA contacted the division and met with a number of its senior staff.

Shortly after the meeting, DMV officials issued official guidance that its offices should accept homeschool diplomas.

Read the DMV policy memo >>

Positive Outcome

Karnes was pleased with the result.

“This is what the department should have done,” he said. “I sponsored this bill, and the legislature passed it. It was clearly intended to make things easier for students who graduate from home education—not more difficult. I am very pleased with the department’s response and commend them for following the intent of the legislature to remove obstacles for homeschool graduates.”

He added: “I’m a homeschooling father of eight, and I can tell you that it works. I’m proud to be a sponsor of legislation that recognizes that home education is a parent’s right and that the state ought to be making things easier for those who choose private education. I also commend HSLDA for the work they have done to support homeschooling freedom in West Virginia.”

Donnelly explained that the new law is innovative and important.

“Unfortunately, unfair treatment of homeschool graduates in many areas is increasing as more and more homeschool students graduate,” he said. “We see this in employment, college admission and other places. HSLDA was involved in drafting and supporting Senator Karnes’s bill through the legislature, and we see that it is making a difference for homeschooled graduates. We hope to see more legislation across the country to remove any legal sanction of unfair treatment of home educated students.”

Donnelly added that he hopes to see similar measures passed in other states.

“This year we passed laws in both Ohio and West Virginia to require that homeschooled students be treated fairly when it comes to employment and college admissions. There is no reason to treat valid homeschool diplomas any different from other sources. HSLDA worked closely with state homeschool leaders in both states to each these important victories.”

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