A Lawrence County father says he got a surprising response when he tried to enroll his 18-year-old daughter for her senior year of high school.
Michael Word said the guidance counselor at Lawrence County High told her that she was too old to enroll in school.
"It's just not fair," Michael Word said.
Amber Word moved from Giles County to Lawrence County and was looking forward to all the things seniors get to do.
"I looked forward to my senior trip, my senior pictures. I already have my class ring," Amber Word said.
Amber Word turned 18 in May. She'd been held back in fifth grade, so she was a little older than some students, but her grades were good and her family said she was on track to graduate on time.
The guidance counselor told the teen she should attend the county's adult education program instead of attending the high school.
It takes fewer credits to graduate from that program, and many of the classes are online. The program is intended for older students who normally would not be able to finish their courses and graduate with their peers.
Lawrence County Schools Director Dr. Bill Heath said that it appears the family was given incorrect information, saying transferring 18-year-olds should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis
Heath added that 18-year-old students who are denied admission to high school have a right to appeal.
The Word family said they were never told they had that right.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Education said that a district cannot refuse enrollment to a student based solely on age. However, school districts do have broad discretion, and even though they can't refuse enrollment, they can require a student to attend an adult high school.
Metro Nashville Public Schools specifically allow students older than 17 years old to finish high school if they have good attendance and behavior and are making good academic progress.
Amber Word is a motivated student. In seventh grade, she developed a brain tumor and missed 80 days of classes but kept up with her work and didn't have to repeat the grade.
"I worked a lot to get to my senior year," Amber Word said.
It's a year her father says she's earned.
"It's not fair, them popping her bubble at the end, taking the glory away from all she's worked up to," he said.
The director of schools plans to meet with the family and review the case.
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