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Requiring a High School Diploma or GED

Exterior of a school

Educational entities often require a high school diploma or General Educational Diploma (GED) for all positions, but the practice is not advisable.

When comparing two candidates for the same job, those with credentials continue to be held in higher regard. But does this mean having a high school diploma or GED should be a requirement for all job applicants?

A Historical Perspective

A 1971 U.S. Supreme Court ruling made it clear that the requirement is unlawful unless job-related and consistent with business necessity because of the disparate impact it had on minority applicants. In 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) response took this one step further by saying that requiring one of the credentials could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if it effectively eliminated applicants who couldn’t receive a high school diploma or GED because of their learning disability (e.g. due to the disability they couldn’t pass the end-of-course assessment).

Taking Precautions

Educational employers should take another look at their job descriptions and reevaluate whether a completed high school education is truly necessary to perform the essential job functions. While no bright-line test exists, for jobs that require more complex tasks the argument could be made that the possession of one of the credentials provides demonstrable proof of commitment to completion and a baseline for intellectual capacity.

Educational entities may wish to view the available job descriptions in TASB HR Services’ Model Job Descriptions (TASB login required) as a starting point. For instance, job descriptions for child nutrition worker and groundskeeper do not require a high school diploma or GED, while security guard and pest control specialist do. The differentiation here stemming mostly from the higher levels of scrutiny and exposure to risk associated with safeguarding schools and applying potentially toxic chemicals. These positions would require the reading comprehension and arithmetic calculations generally expected with the attainment of a high school diploma or GED.

For applicants claiming that a disability prevented them from obtaining a high school diploma or GED, employers should take into consideration whether they could still perform the essential job functions with or without a reasonable accommodation.  Also, employers may wish to allow applicants to demonstrate qualification in another way. For instance, they could take similar work experience into consideration, require a demonstration of skills, or allow applicants to provide evidence of previous performance of the essential functions.


HR Services’ Model Job Descriptions can be used as a resource for developing or revising local job descriptions. Members should edit the models to accurately reflect local job assignments, qualifications, and working conditions.

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Keith McLemore
Keith McLemore
Senior HR and Compensation Consultant

Keith McLemore joined HR Services in 2015 and assists districts with compensation planning and development. He has 17 years of experience traveling the state supporting public education employees.

McLemore received a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern University and a master’s degree from Texas Tech University, both with a focus on research analysis and design. He is a SHRM-CP.

HR Services

TASB HR Services supports HR leadership in Texas schools through membership offerings in specialized training, consulting, and other services.
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