ORLANDO, Fla. -- In some ways, Anastasia Megan is a typical 13-year-old girl. She enjoys riding her horse on her family's rural Sumter County, Fla., spread. She loves to scuba dive, kayak and listen to rock music, including Pink Floyd.
But she is not a typical teenager. The home-schooled student has nearly completed her high-school education, and her parents, both retired engineers, say they have reached their limit in continuing to challenge her academically. They recently applied for their daughter to take dual-enrollment courses at nearby Lake-Sumter Community College in Leesburg, Fla.
But the college gave a firm thumbs down, saying Anastasia, who also goes by Annie, is not ready to sit side by side with older students, most of them adults. Undeterred, her parents have filed an age-discrimination complaint against the college with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
"If she meets all the qualifications but for her age, then why not let her in?" asked her mother, Louise Racine. "What's the worst that can happen, honestly? If a child does pass these tests, don't you think they should be allowed to continue their education to the next level and continue to let their minds grow?"
College President Charles Mojock would not comment specifically on Annie's situation. However, he said Lake-Sumter is an open campus, unlike a gated high school or home-school environment and that could present safety issues.
"Anyone basically can walk onto our campus," Mojock said. "So we've got a very different environment (than a high school). ... And we have many adult students having adult conversations on adult topics and that may or may not be suitable for some young students."
Annie's parents point out their daughter has traveled the world with them and her siblings -- she is one of triplets -- and is comfortable in adult settings. Her father, John Megan, offered to accompany Annie to classes. When college officials again said no, her father said he would even enroll in his daughter's classes. College officials still would not bend.
Richard Scott, vice president of business affairs, said having a parent tag along with a young student presents problems, including faculty members who could hesitate giving a bad grade or discipline to a student, fearing pressure from the parent.
Annie's parents, however, argue that their daughter is well-suited for the college environment. 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.
Regardless, Scott said, the college looks at a broad array of qualifications besides high test scores before accepting students, including those applying for dual-enrollment.
In recent years, Scott said, Lake-Sumter college has seen an increasing number of young applicants, including some as young as 8 or 9 years old. That led the college's board of trustees in April to enact a minimum-age requirement of 15.
Annie's parents hope to trump the requirement and are awaiting a decision by a federal Department of Education investigator. An attempt at mediation in March ended in a stalemate.
Florida does not have a minimum-age requirement for students entering community colleges. However, each college's board of trustees can basically set its own rules regarding admission standards.
John Boshoven, a member of the board of directors for the National Association for College Admission Counseling in Arlington, Va., said colleges will look at young applicants with a much more critical eye.
"The primary issue most often is safety. Anything that happens to this kid, the parents can sue us for being negligent. There are also social problems. She's (Annie) very young, and what kind of friends will she make at the college? This is a kid with a 21-year-old's brain."