Parents fight college that won’t admit 13-year-old

by Walter Olson on June 2, 2010

Lake-Sumter Community College in Leesburg, Florida is refusing to admit a home-schooled teenager because of her age: 13. “Undeterred, her parents have filed an age-discrimination complaint against the college with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.” [Martin Comas, Orlando Sentinel]

{ 1 trackback }

49 comments so far…
06.04.10 at 2:00 pm

{ 66 comments }

1 nevins 06.02.10 at 9:39 am

Wow, finished the home school curriculum at age 13; but isn’t that the typical age for completion of an eighth grade education.

Let her into the school and see if she can cut it without spoonfeeding parents, untimed exams, and uncertain curriculum.

And her father’s offer to accompany his daughter to class and even enroll himself is nothing more than pure bluff. He knows it’s a safe bet that it will not be called.

2 CALACTX 06.02.10 at 9:56 am

Sounds like this gal has a lot on the ball! It does concern me that she will miss out on many childhood years; however, if she is ready academically, there is no need to hold her back. The parents should focus more on her social and emotional development so that her life will have a somewhat normal balance.

3 ParatrooperJJ 06.02.10 at 10:22 am

The complaint will be dismissed. There is no age discrimination protection for young people, only for older folks.

4 Hans Bader 06.02.10 at 10:32 am

Actually, the educational age-discrimination law, unlike the workplace age-discrimination law, does seem to protect younger folks, not just older folks. (It’s called the Age Discrimination Act, as opposed to the ADEA, which covers workplaces, and only protects people over 40. The educational version, ADA, does cover people under 40).

I’ve never heard of it being invoked by a 13-year-old, though.

(I used to work at the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, by the way. Age discrimination complaints were pretty rare. Most of the complaints by students were disability discrimination complaints. Sexual harassment complaints were a distant second).

5 Patriot Henry 06.02.10 at 11:37 am

This is why there oughta be a law against homeschooling – kids will learn too much too fast, threatening the system we all depend on to run our lives.

6 Ron Miller 06.02.10 at 11:45 am

These comments are already filled with remarkable leaps of logic. She really has a lot on the ball? How do you know? Because her father enrolled her in junior college? Now let’s go the other way. How do you know her parents tests were untimed and the her instruction was unstructured? Too many people filter these stories though their own world view lens without actually considering the issues in the specific case.

Here, we have a interesting issue for many Overlawyered readers. Many of you hate virtually all lawsuits and hate the nanny state. Here, arguably, we have a lawsuit to fight the nanny state that stays that you can keep a child out of a public school because they are too young.

7 Jason Barney 06.02.10 at 11:54 am

Looks like you size up Overlawyered readers through your own world view, Ron.

8 The Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk 06.02.10 at 11:56 am

Well, Ron Miller, perhaps the posters above know so because they actually bothered to read the story before offering their opinions. For example, the story reports that: “The teenager recently finished online college courses in Spanish, macroeconomics and U.S. government, scoring A’s in the final exams in April. She also scored far above average in three necessary college-placement tests in November in reading comprehension, sentence skills and algebra required for dual-enrollment high-school students. She was given the tests when she applied to attend Lake-Sumter.”

9 Ron Miller 06.02.10 at 11:57 am

Good comeback, Jason. But do you actually disagree with the premise?

10 Richard Nieporent 06.02.10 at 12:32 pm

Ron, we or at least I am not against all lawsuits. I am just against frivolous lawsuits where people refuse to take responsibility for their own actions and blame others for what is their own fault. I happily contribute to FIRE who will sue universities for violating free speech rights and the Pacific Legal Foundation who sues the government for violating property rights.

11 Jason Barney 06.02.10 at 12:36 pm

The college appears to be a public institution so it’s fairly debatable if she was unfairly denied admission. I believe the lawsuit is non-frivolous.

I do believe your comment was misplaced that many Overlawyered readers hate virtually all lawsuits and hate the nanny state. I don’t believe that’ s true. I’d even submit for readers to respond to this thread with a simple “yes” or “no” if they hate almost all lawsuits and the nanny state.

Maybe I’m wrong.

12 Stewart Peterson 06.02.10 at 1:47 pm

Folks, keep in mind that this is a community college. Even if the prospective student is slightly deficient in some areas, the college likely offers courses that amount to high school material – many of the people who attend a community college do so because they didn’t achieve a spectacular understanding of the material the first time around.

Just taking a cursory look at their course catalog, I think I could probably make up a sequence covering every class I took after the sixth grade (then again, I was in an accelerated program; many people aren’t, but if the only hangup is her age, that’s one way to do it). For a serious student at her level, the major difference between a high school and a community college is format; if she’s more self-propelled, good at using a lecture to frame what topics she should study on her own time, and better at high-stakes testing than drill, a community college would be a better fit than a high school. Basically, I find it difficult to imagine that someone who isn’t drooling on themselves is somehow not ready for a community college. Unfortunately, most people (particularly those who run schools) see the purpose of education as socialization, not learning; I don’t see any evidence in that article that the people involved in making this decision are thinking about a student as a person who wants to learn something and the effect their actions have on that person’s ability to do so. They see the college as a social institution whose job is to enforce behavioral norms.

And IANAL, but isn’t an administrative complaint somewhat better than a lawsuit, and something tort reform advocates would want to encourage in comparison? After all, I assume that in such a setting, the people making the decision can’t make up new legal principles if they don’t feel that the correct decision is “just.” Perhaps I assume incorrectly; please correct me if I do.

13 Ron Miller 06.02.10 at 2:09 pm

Really, Ex -clerk? Above average? And she took on-line courses and got “A”s? By all means, someone nominate her for a Rhodes Scholarship. Are you serious? You think you know something because you read an article that presented those facts? Having read an article – an article! – you are now on your high horse? C’mon. This girl could be a genius and she could have average academic skills. I have absolutely no clue and you don’t either.

Jason, as for your comment, you may be right, I don’t know. Still, I don’t know that the “many” is incorrect, particularly on the “nanny state.” But I appreciate your point.

14 worldroll 06.02.10 at 3:12 pm

Could it be also they don’t want her because the school would then have a loco parentis responibility for her and as the schoold is geared towards adults that it could result in a lot of additonal expenditure for one person.

15 gitarcarver 06.02.10 at 4:24 pm

If the person has the chops to get into the school, they should be allowed in. Why should a person be held back from furthering their education because of a arbitrary rule on age?

That being said, I think the college’s age rule is trying to prevent a lawsuit as they don’t want to be held accountable for the safety of the young lady.

This is the problem with frivolous lawsuits. You have people making decisions based on being sued rather than decisions on what is right and best for others.

16 John Rohan 06.02.10 at 5:43 pm

I guess this family wants to make her the next “Doogie Howser, MD”

I don’t think the age limit is “arbitrary”. We don’t let kids drive before the age of 16 or drink before 21 for a reason. Why on earth a 13 year-old needs to go to college is beyond me. I don’t care how smart she is – there’s a difference between intellectual and emotional development. She simply isn’t ready to be in a classroom with 18-30 year olds. Strangers that she’s not even allowed to speak to, by some people’s reckoning. What happens if one of these 20 year olds asks her out on a date? Would she refuse? What other options does she have – she puts a lot of effort into her studies, and isn’t going to school with any of her peers, so I’m guessing she doesn’t have very many friends her own age.

A better idea is to let her be a kid again for awhile. Even though she may be an incredible genius, the world can wait a couple more years.

17 L.C. Burgundy 06.02.10 at 6:40 pm

John, Ron, why are you so threatened by this? If she wants to attend a semester at a CC and flunks out, so what? High school students do the same all the time when start at college. She’s clearly academically prepared, and I wouldn’t foist a poisonous and academically nonstimulating high school social environment upon her to fit arbitrary beliefs about social conformity.

I think the “safety!” argument fronted by the CC administration is a complete cop-out, especially as the campus apparently allows 15 year olds on campus (see, I read the article!). The idea that the under 18 crowd needs to be behind locked gates and doors constantly is a bit much. As recently as 10 years ago, I attended a high school with no gates and unlocked doors.

I hope she earns herself a BA or BS while most kids are still filling out their college applications.

18 Bob Lipton 06.02.10 at 6:56 pm

I certainly wish her well, but I would be concerned about the cultural shock of thrusting a home-schooled 13-year-old into an environment with most of her nominal compeers 18-22 years old.

Bob

19 Metricula 06.02.10 at 8:24 pm

I just see statutory rape waiting to happen. It’s great she’s ready academically (and is probably extremely mature) but she’s still probably not ready to deal with some of her 18-24 classmates at college.

And can you imagine planning group meetings when you have to accomodate a thirteen year old? We did stuff at the library at midnight all the time. I don’t think her parents would be down with that.

20 Stewart Peterson 06.02.10 at 8:33 pm

John:

What makes you think that everybody’s behavior is subject to your approval? If you want to make everything everybody does a matter of public policy, go to India and see how well that works. Too few people today seem to understand that education is about learning, not socialization. Leave socialization to the parents, who are closest to the situation. Decisions which are applied to large sample sizes and which are based on doing what’s best for the average person do not work in practice, because almost nobody is actually average – and the more independent variables there are, the fewer people fall within one standard deviation from all of the means of all of those distributions. Generalizing from the mean is practically the definition of both stereotyping and cultural Marxism. One size does not fit all; it never has and it never will, and the only thing you can do with that assumption is exclude people who don’t fit, wasting their talent and robbing society of their potential contributions.

Educational researcher Robert Canady gave an excellent presentation (warning: long), probably about 15 years ago now, about the disconnect between students’ knowledge and effort on the one hand and unrelated work-disqualifying policies that are designed to build “character” on the other, but which actually divorce effort from reward and, in his words, “create failing students.” It’s hard to argue with his conclusion that this emphasis on “emotional development” – your vision of the school as an instrument of socialization – does nothing but obscure the significance of grades as data. What do they measure? Knowledge? Effort? Conformance with policy? Obedience and speed? Where they live? Whether they have a car? Don’t laugh – he shows a case study of a student who failed sophomore English on account of technical violations of classroom policies. Without those policies, he shows, the student legitimately earned a low B or high C. As long as all of these “emotional development” inputs go into grades, they will be statistically meaningless. For an educational researcher, such a story could produce a nice article in Putrid Teacher Quarterly, but what happens to individuals who do everything right and get an F on technicalities? What do grades mean to them? Certainly, if they want to keep going, they have to change what they’re doing; in order to be successful in a system that is built to expect average people, they have to become average – and thereby, the system successfully socializes someone. The United States is and always has been successful in areas where individual initiative is rewarded. Do we want, as a matter of public policy, to create a race to the middle? “Socializing” everybody will create a homogeneous culture that lacks the diverse perspectives which the Constitution requires in order to function properly. The Constitution is built on diversity; it requires that people have different perspectives derived from different life experiences, so that they catch each other’s mistakes, or checks and balances don’t work. Nerfing up everyone’s development eliminates what makes us Americans. What happened to excellence? When did “normal” become a virtue, not a standard to be exceeded?

Here’s something else to consider: the kind of “firefighting” approach that is used in high schools – the demand for a large volume of simple work with low latency and high throughput – is designed to train an industrial workforce, not professionals in an information economy. Personally, I was most ready for a college-style learning environment after the end of sixth grade (as hinted above) and spent junior high and high school un-learning good project management and independent study practices in an attempt to produce a lot of what was frankly crap quickly, which was what the high school asked of me. In retrospect, I am absolutely convinced that I would have done much better with the same material in a community college, and it would have prepared me for further study (and life) much better. Should I really have spent six years in a meat grinder for nothing? Are you that deeply convinced that nobody can be any more mature than you were?

People who never have to face reality and responsibilities don’t grow up, regardless of their numerical age. It’s entirely possible to be a 50-year-old kid. Someone who is raised in circumstances where they have to be a full member of the operational team and assume as much of the workload as possible will mature more quickly. “Emotional development” doesn’t happen on your fixed timeline any more than learning does: some people are faster than others. One of the things that community colleges are very good at is serving people who are “emotionally” or organizationally ready for college and not ready academically for big-time, four-year, Ph.D-granting state or private research universities. On the contrary, how do you know four years in a dum-dum high school won’t wreck this person emotionally?

Free enterprise – the social vision of individuals being able to pursue opportunity – is messy. Get used to it.

21 gitarcarver 06.02.10 at 9:00 pm

John,
I don’t think the age limit is “arbitrary”.
Of course it is. Why not make the minimum age 20? 25? 50? 10? There is nothing other than the ability to do the work that matters. This is a case where the school is saying that they know what is better for this young woman than the parents.

she puts a lot of effort into her studies, and isn’t going to school with any of her peers, so I’m guessing she doesn’t have very many friends her own age.

I have no idea what would make you think that. What would make you think that school is the only place people make friends and interact with people? You don’t think that people make friends at church? Youth sports? Volunteer activities? Kids in the neighborhood?

If the young lady can make it academically, that is what matters. Why is it that we give lip service to excellence and encouraging students to be the best they can be, and then when we see one in real life, we put reins on them and say “you aren’t old enough” or “you don’t have enough friends?”

22 Stewart Peterson 06.02.10 at 10:15 pm

Why is it that we give lip service to excellence and encouraging students to be the best they can be, and then when we see one in real life, we put reins on them and say “you aren’t old enough” or “you don’t have enough friends?”

Role-playing. If a six-year-old says “I wanna be a fireman when I grow up!” they’re not saying (in the manner of e.g. a career guidance counselor) “well, gee, I have a certain range of skills, and the best combination of them with my personal goals is probably the emergency services sector.” They’re thinking (or, more properly, emoting) that, in observing the social system they are in, “fireman” is a social role in which people behave in a way that makes our hypothetical six-year-old feel good. If you said, good reason or not (and I’m not saying that there would be a good reason), that there shouldn’t be as many “firemen,” or that the internal culture is problematic, or something of that sort, our hypothetical six-year-old would not listen to what you have to say, process it, and think critically about whether it is logically founded. Instead, they would identify your social agenda as attacking what makes them feel good, and oppose anything you say, simply associating it, whatever it is, with their perception of your social agenda. They are, in short, defending their social role. Now think about the people who emoted at that age that they wanted to be a teacher: they saw a role in the social system that they wanted to have, and now that they have done what they needed to do in order to get that role, they defend the role that they have from attempts to change it. Am I saying all teachers act that way? Of course not; psychology is how people act when they’re not thinking, and those who think don’t do this. However, those who aren’t thinking about why they do what they do – people who are not goal-oriented, who are “organization men” – are expert analysts of social systems and know how to use them to socialize people. They see the purpose of any social system as the socialization of deviants, not any stated goal.

23 Kim 06.02.10 at 11:20 pm

My thirteen year old was homeschooled until ninth grade and I wish to heaven I’d tried to get her into community college then…the two years she spent in high school before moving to community college at 15 were the worst 2 years of her schooling and her life in general…She was ready academically, but not hard-boiled enough for the shennanigans of young high school girls and guys. Once in community college at 15, she sailed through, loved the atmosphere, and had her master’s degree at 22. Some kids are not meant for high school kids’ games and cruelties. She was one. Sometimes the academically advanced do best around older, more mature and relatively more sensitive people. Meanwhile, yes, she had school friends her age, church friends, and people who’d been her friends since preschool. And btw, community college is not Harvard, or even University of Oregon. It’s a bunch of people of many ages and abilities, trying to get what they need in the way of an inexpensive and flexible education, and probably 1/4 of the classes offered are below college level, anyway. It’s the environment that was salutary to my first, and a few years later, to my second daughter, too, who excelled there, even though she had learning disabilities. She took until 18 to graduate high school there…but because she’d gotten it taking college courses, also had a two-year degree by then. For many teens who aren’t gifted at, or interested in sports and/or the other extracurricular activities that are the distinctive in high school, it is just a waiting time for otherwise mature and self-directed kids. Let them move ahead in the way they can and want to. Who decreed the atmosphere and timetable of the American high school is the best for all? Oh, yes, I know… the federal government did.

24 Frank 06.03.10 at 9:32 am

“Annie’s parents say it’s time their daughter enrolls in a public academic setting”

Why not high school with other 13-14 year olds? No matter how well a child has done on achievement tests, I tend to think that he or she probably doesn’t know everything and likely could learn something new in a high school class.

Leaving aside that since I was in high school available courses have multiplied and specialized, does anyone here think that they would not learn anything new in a semester of plain, old Sociology 2010?

25 John Rohan 06.03.10 at 9:35 am

“Stewart Peterson” – you are way out of line with your straw man arguments, and this has nothing to do with being for “socialization” or against “free enterprise”.

In fact, YOU are the one against free enterprise if you think the courts should force a college to admit a student they are clearly uncomfortable about.

And to “L.C. Burgundy”, and “Kim”, maybe the high schools you went to were abnormally bad, but for most kids, HS is generally not the traumatic experience you make it out to be. Plus, this girl will miss so many things in life. How do you replace the Prom? What about sports and other athletics activities that’s she’s missing?

26 John Rohan 06.03.10 at 9:42 am

Incidentally, I should point out that this whole thing reminds me of the same kind of parents who push their 7 year-olds into exploitative junior beauty pageants. They feel so needy to relive their own failed lives through their children that they often don’t see the harm they are causing by pushing them so hard.

27 ParatrooperJJ 06.03.10 at 9:49 am

Agr- I was thinking workpalce not school.

28 Stewart Peterson 06.03.10 at 9:59 am

Why not high school with other 13-14 year olds? No matter how well a child has done on achievement tests, I tend to think that he or she probably doesn’t know everything and likely could learn something new in a high school class.

Because that describes most community college students. If I gave you, right now, a test on trigonometry and a test on Chaucer, you would probably not do well on one or both. I’ll even go out on another limb and say that you probably wouldn’t respond to that by saying that you should go back to high school.
It comes down to this: do you want school to be about learning, or a club with an elaborate set of initiation rules?

does anyone here think that they would not learn anything new in a semester of plain, old Sociology 2010?

I certainly might. And had I gone to CC instead of high school, I might have been able to. Such courses are not offered at the high school level, for the practical (and proper) reason that with only a few hundred to a thousand people on campus, most of whom are occupied with clearing up required classes, there aren’t enough people per semester to take it. There is no Advanced Placement Sociology (and AP courses generally do not reflect the college format), so even a selective-enrollment school with comparatively advanced students would not offer it. The high school format is simply not built to broaden horizons, allow students to pursue individual programs of study, or vary the pace of instruction. People who need those things ought to have enough freedom of choice to be able to look somewhere else.

29 gitarcarver 06.03.10 at 10:02 am

In fact, YOU are the one against free enterprise if you think the courts should force a college to admit a student they are clearly uncomfortable about.

It is the reason that the college is “uncomfortable” that is troublesome. The girl meets the academic standards. The college is saying that they worry for her safety which seems to be an admission that their campus is unsafe. The college is also saying they are concerned with the topics of discussion in the classroom. That is a decision for the parents, not the school.

How do you replace the Prom? What about sports and other athletics activities that’s she’s missing?

You mean people don’t play sports other than in high school? Does the AAU know this? Does Little League know that they stopped their Senior and their Big League programs? Have all rec centers closed and I missed the announcement? What if she doesn’t WANT to play a sport at the high school level? Are you suggesting that she be forced to go to high school to not participate in something?

As for the prom, this is once again a decision that the parent and the child should make – not you or the college. I never went to a prom at my high school mainly because my school never had one. None of the people were injured by not having a prom. If the parents and the kid don’t care about a “prom,” who are we to tell them they must? Who is the college to say they must?

If the kid qualifies academically, why hold her back? Please give some substantive reason why this young lady should not pursue her education.

30 Bill Alexander 06.03.10 at 10:23 am

“The college is saying that they worry for her safety which seems to be an admission that their campus is unsafe. ”

Perhaps they are saying it might be unsafe for 13 year old girls, which is quite different than a blanket statement implying that it is unsafe for their normal group of students.

31 Stewart Peterson 06.03.10 at 10:34 am

John:

Don’t you and your social engineering agenda tell me I’m “out of line.” Why do you get to determine what the “line” is? Where are these “lines” in a free society?

Education is not a social event. Get it? Those of us who are/were serious students and are/were there to learn are/were sick and tired of being told that no, we’re mistaken and school is about creating a little imaginary world where we completely coincidentally get to do things your way. It’s that kind of approach that made high school idyllic for a clown like you and considerably less enjoyable for people like me.

And what other kinds of discrimination do you support in public accomodations? Tell me what other “lines” we have to keep everybody in…

Oh, BTW: “socialization” is the process by which a society enforces norms on individuals (e.g. “you’re out of line,” the implication being that the purpose of one’s existence is to be within lines). It’s a social-psychological concept, not an economic one as you seem to think, although the economic phenomenon (socialism) is quite widespread among people who are raised in a society that places emphasis on doing whatever everyone else is doing, simply because everyone else is doing it. Marxists, having failed miserably in trying to force collectivism (as a broadly cultural phenomenon) on people administratively, see control of the culture as their only remaining chance to destroy free society and replace it with groupthink. Define situations as social events, where the emphasis is on fitting in, and they will win.

32 Ron Miller 06.03.10 at 10:47 am

Actually, LC, you have my position completely wrong. I’m in favor of letting the girl girl to school, although I really don’t feel very strongly about it.

33 gitarcarver 06.03.10 at 11:10 am

Perhaps they are saying it might be unsafe for 13 year old girls, which is quite different than a blanket statement implying that it is unsafe for their normal group of students.

Perhaps and to be honest with you, I thought of that. If that is the case, doesn’t it become an instance of “blame the victim?” What about other women who are of her size, weight and strength? Shouldn’t they be worried as well?

34 Jim Collins 06.03.10 at 11:19 am

When I was in college, I tutored a young woman in CAD. She took her GED between 9th and 10th grade, when she turned 16. She then dropped out of high school and enrolled in community college. When the rest of her class was graduating high school, she had completed a two year Associates Degree program and was in her second year of a Bachlor’s program at a State university.

In this case I have to side with the college. I think 13 is too young to be alone on a college campus. I have no doubts that she could handle the class work, it is the other issues that have been raised here that concern me. There are plenty of colleges offering online classes, so why doesn’t she go that route?

35 Ron Miller 06.03.10 at 11:25 am

This safety stuff is nonsense. She’s 13. Someone picks her up and drops her off. She’s not living on campus and, if she is “asked out” she can deal with the same way the 13 year-old at the mall does. Presumably parent supervision is the trump card.

The issue is the school’s right – a public school, BTW – to set age selection criteria. I think she should be allowed to go to school but there is a reasonable argument the other way which is why this 60 word post has generated 50 comments.

36 Bill Alexander 06.03.10 at 11:26 am

“If that is the case, doesn’t it become an instance of “blame the victim?”

I don’t think so. There are many instances where one person is not safe and another is relatively so. For instance, she would not be permitted to work in many factories running machinery. She is not permitted in most bars. These are not “blaming the victim”, they are blaming her age.

37 gumby 06.03.10 at 12:37 pm

“Many of you hate virtually all lawsuits and hate the nanny state. ”

Heh. Bingo.

38 John Rohan 06.03.10 at 1:17 pm

Stewart Peterson –

Where you are out of “line” is to attribute to me things that I didn’t believe or didn’t say (like “making everything that everyone does a matter of public policy”) . Nor do I have a “social engineering agenda”. If you want to go off and argue with a straw man, go ahead. But leave my name out of it. And now that you have to resort to personal attacks and calling me a “clown”, I’m guess that you aren’t really that confident in your position. So there’s no point in arguing with you.

To everyone else who says, if she can handle the courseload, why not let her do it? But you know, there are a huge number of 13 year olds who could pass the driver’s exam. Why not let them do that? There are a huge number who are very politically savvy and aware of current events. Why not let them vote? Maybe where the college erred is not having a previous written policy on the minimum age limit for enrollment.

Also, what’s the hurry? A judge can emancipate a minor in pressing circumstances. Is there any pressing need why she needs to go to college now? Are her parents terminally ill, and she’s facing having to support herself very soon?

The safety issue may be overblown, but the college might be mindful (once again, fear of lawsuits) because, depending on the State, there is a multitude of mandatory training and qualifications that educators that deal with children have to have vs. those that teach adults.

Finally, I should add that I have quite a gifted daughter myself. She gets straight A’s at her private school, excels in everything that’s thrown at her, scored in the 99 percentile on the Iowa tests, speaks two languages and is working on a third. I have no doubt she could handle community college when she is 13. But childhood only comes once. Her mother and I decided we weren’t going to rob her of that. She can take the world by storm after she’s 18. The world isn’t going anywhere.

39 gitarcarver 06.03.10 at 1:39 pm

These are not “blaming the victim”, they are blaming her age.

The difference is that in the cases you cite, the prohibition is to protect the person from themselves or to protect others from the actions of the young person. In this case, the prohibition is on the girl to supposedly protect her from others.

In the case of this young lady attending school, she would only be a victim from someone. In the cases you cite, the potential is that she could do harm to others.

So where is the harm in allowing her to go to school?

40 Bill Alexander 06.03.10 at 2:54 pm

Having worked in a factory with many moving conveyor belts and ovens, I believe the risk is more to the underaged employee rather than others.

41 gitarcarver 06.03.10 at 5:39 pm

Fair enough Bill. I will disagree with you on that point. However, there is one other point to be made here. In a factory, the company pays the employee. At the college, the student is paying for the service.

I would argue that the college reason for existence is to provide and education for the students that qualify academically.

I don’t like the idea that a kid that is academically eligible to attend the school is denied entrance not because of her failings, but because of the school’s failing to provide a safe educational facility for her and all the students.

If she is not safe, no student is safe.

42 John Rohan 06.03.10 at 5:42 pm

gitarcarver said: “So where is the harm in allowing her to go to school?”

Why not ask instead: what is the harm in having her wait a few years?

43 gumby 06.03.10 at 6:57 pm

Or why not ask what is the harm in allowing the school to choose who they admit?

Or, the flipside, what is the harm in compelling the school to admit her?

Anyway, the question is, should this be the sort of thing that civil rights legislation should address? Notionally it is age discrimination, but is it justifiable for the college to do this. It really doesn’t matter what the particular gifts of this kid are, or whether it is a good idea for her to be there or not, or what business the college thinks its in or not etc etc. The issue is whether the kid has a legal right to compel the college to admit her, or whether the college has a legal right to say, “ablity or not, we can say no to admitting someone this age”. I can think of a number of legitimate reasons that the college has in saying no.

44 gitarcarver 06.03.10 at 7:42 pm

Why not ask instead: what is the harm in having her wait a few years?

Oh, I dunno…. freedom of choice, freedom of self determination, heck, just freedom in general.

Or why not ask what is the harm in allowing the school to choose who they admit?

It is a school – a publicly funded school. She met the academic requirements. The school is there to educate – not to impress their sense of “who is ready” on the world.

45 John Rohan 06.03.10 at 11:00 pm

gitarcarver wrote: “Oh, I dunno…. freedom of choice, freedom of self determination, heck, just freedom in general.

OK then, would you support her if she sued to be allowed to drive a car, join the military, stay out after legal curfew, or go into R rated movies alone?

Society puts certain limits on freedoms of children before their age of majority. That concept is not terribly controversial, and in fact, it’s pretty much universal across the globe.

46 bystander 06.04.10 at 10:25 am

The harm of having her wait a few years could actually be quite a lot. College age students might view her as a precocious curiosity. Kids her own age? They’ll likely decide that she needs to pay for being such a freak by making her life a living hell. Being far ahead of your peers intellectually does not make you cool and attractive when you’re 13. In the meantime, she slogs through high school work that is too easy and learns the lesson that education is boring and a waste of time. So, yeah, a few years could be enough to pretty much kill her motivation.

47 Jules 06.04.10 at 11:10 am

As a resident and person knowlegeable of the service area of lake Sumter Community College and having gone through the same rigamarole with my slightly older daughter than 13 and one of her gifted friends, there are a few key points that I feel qualified and knowlegeable enough about the matter to make. First, the public schools in Florida and in particularly those located within the service area of Lake Sumter Community College, being Lake and Sumter Counties, are 3rd rate at best with no significant measureable improvement visible for the foreseeable future, the area is loaded with a plethora of northern retirees with the attitude that I paid for my kids education up north and now that I am retired I do not wish to tax myself at a level that will financially support the local public schools with the inevitable result, so private or home schooling is the only non-brain deadening option available to very able students. Second, the prospective student in question passed all of the college admission tests with flying colors, so there is not issue as to academic abilities, personal character, or prior preparation. Third, the doctrine of loco parentis does not apply in a post high school educational environment, as the students are deemed to be of sufficient legal capability to successfully matriculate without quasi parental supervision. Also, in this regard, the propspective student’s father stipulated that he would attend the same classes simultaneously with his daughter, and since the Lake Sumter Community College main campus in Leesburg does have security guards and regular patrols by the Lake County Sheriif deputies and college security officers plus volunteers, that this is a big lie or falsehood issue. There has been no evidence provided or alleged by the the college president, one Charles Mojock, in his refusal to admit the young lady, that there has ever been any security issues or stautory rapes, or anything of similar ilk. Lastly, based upon my own knowlege and experiences, Lake Sumter Community College’s Board Of Trustees are nothing other than a bunch of Conservative Republican appointees, not elected by the citizens of the college’s service area, and they are tied-in with the local schools boards, and high schools, that don’t want to set a precedent or highlight just how terrible the local schools are, and don’t want to engage in head-butting and be accused of raiding the schools of their best and brightest, who disportionately pull-up the results of the state mandated test results.
I, as an area taxpayer, resent that my hard earned and scare tax dollars will be spent on a meritless lawsuit defense, which we are doomed to lose.

48 gitarcarver 06.04.10 at 12:22 pm

OK then, would you support her if she sued to be allowed to drive a car, join the military, stay out after legal curfew, or go into R rated movies alone?

As I said before John, her getting into school is something that affects her and her alone. Her driving a car or joining the military has great potential to hurt others.

I have always thought that curfews for kids is just the state taking over parental responsibilities. The same for the prohibition on R rated films.

The question that has to be asked here is “who is better to decide what is best for this young woman – some faceless bureaucrat who has never met the girl? Or the girl and her parents?

I am going to chose the girl and her parents.

49 The Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk 06.04.10 at 1:23 pm

Ron Miller:

Prior to your first comment, no one asserted that this girl was a “genius” or a Rhodes scholar. The most enthusiastic comment was that it “[s]ounds like this gal has a lot on the ball!” To which you replied, “These comments are already filled with remarkable leaps of logic. She really has a lot on the ball? How do you know?”

We know she has a lot on the ball, because the story provides us with the basic facts necessary to make this conclusion. Specifically, we know that, at the age of 13, she “scored far above average in three necessary college-placement tests in November in reading comprehension, sentence skills and algebra required for dual-enrollment high-school students. She was given the tests when she applied to attend Lake-Sumter.”

In other words, at 13, she scored much better than average on a test administered to high school students to permit them to take college courses. Notably, the community college doesn’t even make a pretextual case that she’s not academically qualified.

Unless you can muster some contrary facts or can articulate a reasonable basis for asserting otherwise, the reported facts justify the “on the ball” assessment. You have not done so thus far.

50 Aaron Worthing 06.04.10 at 2:21 pm

Well, for me the first question would be this: does the law cover age discrimination at her age. if it does, then the school has to follow it, period. tough on them.

Is it a good idea? honestly, i don’t see why they can’t make some kind of accommodation. And the other end is this. isn’t it the case in most states that you have to go to school until you are at least 16? So if she has gone as far as she can go, what is supposed to doing in school, if not going to at least a community college? my gut says that the community college is just being pig headed.

51 John Rohan 06.04.10 at 3:00 pm

bystander said:

“The harm of having her wait a few years could actually be quite a lot. College age students might view her as a precocious curiosity. Kids her own age? They’ll likely decide that she needs to pay for being such a freak by making her life a living hell. Being far ahead of your peers intellectually does not make you cool and attractive when you’re 13.”

?? That doesn’t make sense. What you just said above supports the exact opposite of your conclusion.

Wouldn’t college age students view her even more as a “precocious curiosity” if she entered college at 13? And just how would entering now make her more popular with her peers? Especially since, as you put it, “Being far ahead of your peers intellectually does not make you cool and attractive when you’re 13″. Here “peers” in college will be too old for her to socialize with, and the ones not in college will view her as even more distant than before.

52 gitarcarver 06.04.10 at 3:14 pm

Here “peers” in college will be too old for her to socialize with, and the ones not in college will view her as even more distant than before.

This is a community college. There are no dorms or anything like it. Like most of her “peers” in the college, she’ll go to school and then return home.

As for her “social life,” how is going to college any different than what she is doing now? She is home schooled. It is not as if her social circle are her school mates.

She has other avenues of socializing and mixing with her chronological peers.

53 Sara B. 06.04.10 at 3:18 pm

As a homeschooling parent, I think she probably is academically and probably emotionally ready for the challenge. Every kid is different, but in general, homeschooled kids have many friends their own ages. A lot of homeschooled kids are rarely home, actually. There are co-ops to go to, groups to get together with, church functions and extracurricular activities to fit in, plus visiting with extended family members of all ages. I’m sure she could handle herself just fine.

However, as a parent, I am more concerned about the maturity of students who have only attended public schools and had indoctrination shoved down their throats and the “group-think” behavior to rely on for the last 12 or 13 years.

There is a new way for college nowadays – homeschooling college. My kids are still young, but when it comes time, I will ask them what they’d like to do. They will have that option open to them. If this girl is unable to get into the college, then this is what I would suggest to her parents.

54 Patrick 06.04.10 at 4:50 pm

I’m late to this party Ron, but as you, frequent reader and commenter, know many of us are lawyers. Some of us even file suits for non-commercial plaintiffs.

Olson should have changed this site’s name to “Overnannied” in 2003, but that isn’t too catchy. And the Venn diagram intersection between lawyers and nannies is vast.

55 roy 06.04.10 at 5:50 pm

Most of the comments above seem melodramatic to me. When I was 13, I took a couple of classes at a community college. Being allowed to enroll was a prize from a computer competition, which I won along with a few others from my (public) grade school.

I learned a lot. There was no drama.

56 Bob Lipton 06.04.10 at 7:47 pm

Those of us who are expressing doubt as to the wisdom are expressing doubt about enrolling a 13-year-old girl as a full-time student, Roy. ‘A couple of classes’ doesn’t cover it.

Bob

57 CKA 06.04.10 at 8:07 pm

Over 20 years ago, when I was 15, I started taking classes at the local community college–and yes, I am a female. I graduated from community college by 18 with two A.A.’s, finished college/law school by 21, and now have a successful career as a federal agent [and yes, I was home schooled]. I spent all day, most days, on campus by myself for ~4 years–without direct parental supervision–and never had a problem–whether from sexual advances or otherwise–plus had many friends among the students, staff, and professors at the college by the time I graduated.

If this girl wants to go to college, has proven that she is academically inclined–as the information from the article indicates–then she should be allowed to attend. Socialization is not about sticking a bunch of kids together to chat about the latest teen idol but teaching children the art of being able to hold a coherent and real conversation with any age group, from babies to the elderly, so this girl is probably better socialized than the majority of “kids” coming out of public/private High Schools today. Assuming she is a typical home-schooled kid, I would be surprised if she has any trouble adapting to college life and dealing with the people there, as she has probably been exposed to people of all walks of life for years so attending college will be like another day in her normal life.

Most likely the problem here isn’t that the college administration truly fears this girl is unprepared for college, but that they know they have some kooks for professors at the college and fear that this girl could cause some serious civil/criminal liability issues for the professors being that she is a minor.
From my own experience in community college, I had to take a ‘mandatory’ Psychology class as part of the General Education requirements. Unfortunately, the long-standing tenured professor thought it was great fun to show Rated X movies during class as part of the standard curriculum–no redeeming value to the movies, he just thought it should be studied for its ‘artistic’ value. The school administration/professor were NOT happy when this was broadcast and even less happy when my father went to the professor about showing hard-core porn in a required general educational class when there was a 16 year old female present. I ended up dropping the class but the professor and school could have gotten in serious legal trouble for it, including criminal charges being filed, if we had been inclined to sue/file criminal charges. So this is more likely a way for them to protect themselves from a lawsuit/criminal charges is my first thought.

58 Jason Barney 06.04.10 at 8:08 pm

Bob,

Why not? Did you take any college classes at 13 and find it unproductive or unacceptable?

59 Jason Barney 06.04.10 at 8:14 pm

CKA,

You ROCK!

60 Bob Lipton 06.04.10 at 9:25 pm

Yes, Jason, I took some college courses when I was thirteen and I thought they were interesting and I learned a good deal. But I still went to college and did not graduate from high school and matriculate in college until I was 18.

You misunderstand, I feel, my position: I am not opposed to this girl taking college courses. I am no even opposed to her entering college with a goal of graduating in four years. I just think that those who fall outside the normal parameters of society should be considered as special cases and decisions made on a one-by-one basis. Perhaps this girl is intellectually and emotionally able to go to college. The information provided in the on-line articles and in discussion here do not address those issues, nor can a judge, asked to decide this on the basis of age discrimination. Yes, it is age discrimination. But who is more familiar and able to judge such matters? The college administration or a judge. The college administration is, one hopes, guided by concerns for its students, actual and potential. The judge will be guided by the law which must inevitably consider such issues in a cookie-cutter fashion.

I hasten to add that a lot of students are not emotionally prepared to matriculate in college at 18. However, the larger number of such inappropriate students means that a well-run college will have support mechanisms in place for students at 18 than at 13.

Is it right for this girl to attend college? That is the issue. Instead of speaking in grand generalities of rights, she should be considered as an individual.

I don’t have the data at hand. I haven’t met her, I have no opinion on her abilities to operate in a social situation among nominal equals who are late adolescents and young adults. I strongly suspect that home schooling has made the sort of rough, often obnxious socialization that many of us went through is absent. I could well be wrong. But what makes you think I am? Have you met her?

Bob

61 gitarcarver 06.04.10 at 10:43 pm

I strongly suspect that home schooling has made the sort of rough, often obnxious socialization that many of us went through is absent. I could well be wrong. But what makes you think I am? Have you met her?

My experience with kids that have been home schooled would say that you are wrong. At the very least, I will say that your experience with home schooled kids is vastly different from mine.

Of course, maybe you and I can agree that home schooled Tim Tebow has done rather well for himself in socialization, maturity, academics, morals and helping his fellow man. In my experience, what makes Tebow different from 95% of the other home schooled kids is his athletic ability – not his social skills.

Your mileage may vary. :)

62 Jason Barney 06.04.10 at 11:23 pm

Bob,

I appreciate your feedback.

However, my query is narrowly focused: why do you question Roy’s opinion because he only once attended “a couple of classes” and when I call you on it you then indicate you took “some” classes at thirteen? What’s the difference, and should Roy’s or Bob’s opinion be given greater weight if they had or had not attended junior college in their early teens?

Attending college at a young age is not substantially comparable to the legal or moral consequences of other issues mentioned previously. It’s simply the pursuit of knowledge. It’s a public college. Let her at it!

63 John Rohan 06.05.10 at 9:57 pm

CKA,

You were 15 not 13, and that does make a difference. Especially in this case, where the college in question does allow 15 as their minimum cut off.

Incidentally, the best way to learn is by doing. I don’t see how taking classes from your mom for the last 12 years will help prepare for a successful college career. And I am frankly offended by home-schooled commenters who claim that everyone who went to a public or private school (I’ve been to both) are “indoctrinated” and can’t think for themselves. And if this was so, then why would college be any better? There was certainly quite a bit of “indoctrination” at my University – anyone who supported President Reagan on anything were ridiculed as idiots, or worse.

64 Sara B. 06.07.10 at 10:37 pm

And I am frankly offended by home-schooled commenters who claim that everyone who went to a public or private school (I’ve been to both) are “indoctrinated” and can’t think for themselves.

I went to public schools, and yes, I was indoctrinated. Took me many years to learn to think for myself, and I am still learning. If you’re offended, I’m sorry, but this has been my experience with every single public schooled person I know in the last 20 – 25 years. If we are free-thinking now, it’s because it’s taken us a lot of time to figure out that we WERE indoctrinated and we have had to relearn how to think and learn.

65 Bob Lipton 06.08.10 at 6:11 am

Right. And home-schooling doesn’t indoctrinate.

Bob

66 Sara B. 06.08.10 at 10:33 pm

No, Bob, I don’t indoctrinate my children. I teach them to use their heads and figure things out on their own. Something they’re very good at, I might add.

Comments on this entry are closed.