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

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]

67 Comments

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Bob,

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

  • CKA,

    You ROCK!

  • 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

  • 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. :)

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Right. And home-schooling doesn’t indoctrinate.

    Bob

  • 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.