Beyond the Burg: 13-year-old college sophomore barred from class

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March 30, 2010

2:08 AM

Colin Offir, a 13-year-old student attending the University of Connecticut as an academic sophomore, is seeking legal action against his school and the U.S. Department of Education citing age discrimination.

UConn has rejected Offir’s request to enroll in a class on conservation work, which includes fieldwork in South Africa. Offir and his mother said that university officials denied him on the basis that he was too young to take an overseas course. According to Offir, the course is vital for his major.

Colin is pursuing degrees in ecology and evolutionary biology, as well as a major in environmental studies. He is an honors student, maintaining a 3.9 GPA.

Jessica Offir, Colin’s mother, attempted to negotiate with UConn by offering to release the university from liability concerns. She also proposed to accompany her son as a chaperone, but the university prevented Colin from taking the course.

Michael Kirk, a spokesman for UConn, did not offer any comments on Colin’s case. He said that safety is the university’s first priority when travel is concerned.

The decision for Colin to gain approval from the university lies with the study abroad office and the faculty member leading the trip.

“I’m losing time in my four-year plan for college,” Offir told The Associated Press. “They’re upsetting the framework of one of my majors.”

Colin’s rejection from coursework in South Africa has forced him to change his thesis plans. After his undergraduate studies, he planned to pursue a Ph.D in ecology and evolutionary biology and a degree in environmental law. He said he wants to attain both degrees by age 22.
Despite being barred from UConn’s field study, he will be going to South Africa through a National Science Foundation-funded research group to study plant ecology.

Colin and his mother are in the process of talking with their lawyer, Michael Agranoff, to ensure that UConn allows the NSF-funded research trip and seminar to fulfill the original course Colin wanted to take. The mother and son have also asked for $5,000 reimbursement in stipend and expenses.

According to The Associated Press, Colin began reading on his own at the age of two and read Harry Potter at four. He eventually skipped two grades in public schools and took courses in psychology and history at UConn when he was nine. Colin proceeded to graduate from Stanford University Online High School at 11 and then enrolled as a full-time student at UConn.

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