Exchange student wins battle for diploma

May 21, 2010 at 3:25 PM
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TULSA, Okla., May 21 (UPI) -- A Vietnamese exchange student living in Sperry, Okla., has the right to a high school diploma a local school board had denied her, a Tulsa County judge ruled.

District Judge Linda G. Morrissey ruled Oanh Kim Pham, 18, can graduate and get her diploma Saturday, her attorney, Perry Newman, told the Tulsa World.

The judge, he said, found the school board "had no valid legal excuse for not giving her a diploma."

The Sperry school board had denied Oanh a diploma by a 2-1 vote May 14. Those who voted not to give her a diploma said after taking into account Oanh's education through 11th grade in Vietnam, she fell five credits short of the 28 required to graduate.

Oanh, who began attending her Sperry high school at the start of her senior year, earned straight A's while taking advanced-placement classes. She has been accepted by Tulsa University, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, where she was awarded a scholarship of more than $8,000.

The state Board of Education is required to ensure when students transfer from out of state after their junior year they still have a chance to get a diploma, regardless of differing graduation requirements. School boards can make exceptions to graduation requirements.

But Sperry Assistant Superintendent Brian Beagles had told the World before the ruling that officials of the state Department of Education had concluded the "out-of-state" reference should not be interpreted to mean "out of country."

Newman said World Education Services of New York reviewed Oanh's school transcript from Vietnam and determined she had received the equivalent of 11 years of U.S. elementary and secondary school education.

"The court has righted a wrong in this case and also clarified the question not only for Sperry schools but all schools," Newman said. "Out-of-state doesn't mean just from another state; it means from a foreign country."

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