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A Manhattan girl who skipped high school, went straight to college and earned a 3.8 grade point average cannot obtain her associate’s degree because she does not have a high school degree — and she cannot get a high school diploma because she is too young. But Angela Lipsman’s dilemma is one of her own making, and that of her defiant father, and not a case of constitutional deprivation or age discrimination, Supreme Court Justice Bernard J. Malone Jr. of Albany ruled July 14. “Instead of following state law upon the issue of school attendance they chose to chart their own education course for Angela and now must deal with the annoying result of that decision,” he said. The unusual case involves a child prodigy who took her first college course at age 11 and, after finishing eighth grade at PS 187 in Washington Heights and passing two high school Regents exams, opted to go straight to college. Lipsman, who turned 15 on July 11, has met every requirement to graduate from the Borough of Manhattan Community College — except one. She does not have, and cannot obtain, a high school equivalency diploma. New York law requires children to remain in school until they are 16, and it will not award an equivalency diploma to someone under 17. Justice Malone said Lipsman, who has completed 33 college courses and accumulated 71 credits, could have avoided the Catch-22 by remaining in public school and pursuing her high school studies at an accelerated pace. Additionally, he said she could have been home schooled on a fast-track. Lipsman’s father is a retired teacher. Yet, she bypassed high school altogether in violation of the law. “[A]ngela was not legally free to ‘skip’ high school,” Justice Malone wrote in Lipsman v. New York State Education Department, 102527/03. The case arose when Lipsman was advised that she would not be awarded her associate’s degree without certifying that she had a high school diploma. After she was denied a high school equivalency diploma, her father, Daniel Lipsman, brought a pro se action alleging age discrimination. Justice Malone dismissed the claim. He said the state clearly has a compelling interest advanced by compulsory school attendance for youths between the ages of 6 and 16, and the bar on granting a high school equivalency degree to those younger than 17 is obviously related to that public policy objective. “I am not too thrilled,” Miss Lipsman said in an interview yesterday. “I just don’t think it is fair.” Mr. Lipsman said he is “outraged by the decision” but not surprised, and is contemplating an appeal if he can find a public interest lawyer willing to take the case pro bono. He said the only reason he did not pull his daughter out of grade school was because PS 187 had “something to offer her” — which, he claims, the New York City public high schools did not. “I saw absolutely no reason to hold my daughter down and keep her from moving ahead,” Mr. Lipsman said. “A case could be made that to send a kid to a New York City public high school would be child abuse when you consider what goes on in that system. … I will go to jail before my daughter goes to high school, if it takes that.” Mr. Lipsman, the target of a complaint of educational neglect lodged by the city Administration for Children’s Services, said his daughter is registered for five courses this fall at the Manhattan Community College and the Fashion Institute of Technology, and will continue accumulating credits toward a bachelor’s degree through Excelsior College. He said that if all goes according to schedule, he expects Angela to meet the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in May 2005, just before her 17th birthday. “What I project is that on her 17th birthday she will get her high school equivalency diploma, on 17 years and one day get her associate’s degree and 17 years and two days get the bachelor’s degree,” Mr. Lipsman said. Mr. Lipsman acknowledged that Justice Malone’s ruling will not slow his daughter’s educational progress. But he said the state’s hard-line position did deny Angela’s grandmother, who died recently, an opportunity to see the teen graduate from college. Assistant Attorney General Nancy G. Groenwegen defended the Education Department. The Education Department declined to comment.

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