Sometimes when news break that an individual is expelled from school people may think the reason could be fighting, excessive suspensions, or breaking school rules, failure to attend classes, to name a few examples.
One girl, a seventh grader, and her younger sister (11-years old), were expelled from St. Theresa's Catholic school in Kenilworth, New Jersey after their family sued the school for not allowing their 13-year old daughter to play on the boys’ basketball team, as reported by Yahoo Sports.
Just moments before a once in a lifetime opportunity took place for Sydney Phillips, her father Scott Phillips learned Sydney and his other daughter also attending the school, were expelled from St. Theresa’s for a lawsuit the family filed against the school.
When the Phillips family went to school the next day, they were met by two police offers and two priests blocking the entrance into the building, Yahoo Sports reported.
“[We] called the Archdiocese, and they said their decision was that they were expelling my daughters at that exact instant,” Phillips stated. “They told that if they didn’t leave the school, they were trespassers and could be arrested. My 11-year -old was hysterically crying.”
Yahoo Sports stated on Friday, (Feb. 3) Scott filed for an emergency hearing at the courts at which resulted in the appellate court agreeing the girls should be back in school – they will return on Monday, Feb. 6.
Back in Oct., Scott Phillips learned that the St. Theresa’s girls’ basketball team was shutting down. Phillips told Yahoo, “When we heard that there was no varsity team, which covers 7th and 8th grade, my wife simply said, ‘Let’s just let her play with the 7th and 8th-grade boys. Let’s move her over.’”
Seems like that is a fair trade-off, considering the school would no longer have one for their daughter — the school athletic director felt differently.
“Instead of saying, ‘Let’s talk about it,’ or ‘Let’s look into it,’ it was a resounding ‘No’ from the athletic director,” Phillips told Yahoo. “It was a simple request: just move a girl over to the boys’ league. It’s a no tryout league. There was nothing about if she can keep up with the boys. And as it happens, Sydney is a very, very good athlete, and her moving to the boys’ team would only help them.”
He also asked the school if there was a written rule about not being able to allow a girl on the team – a document the school could not show Phillips that his daughter could not play on the boys’ team. Instead, Phillips said the athletic director just said ‘boys play with boys and girls with girls.’
The next step Phillips took was a meeting with the Newark Archdiocese, a step above the AD to only be told the same answer. From there he felt the next step he had to take was to sue the school.
“This isn’t about the money,” Phillips stated, “we just want Sydney to be able to play basketball.”
Phillips told Yahoo:
“We just want Sydney to be able to play basketball at St. Teresa’s. She plays for a very good travel team and another church for our hometown. It’s not just that she wanted to play basketball — she wanted to play it for her school. She’s gone to that school since pre-K, so it’s the only school she’s ever known. Sydney can’t understand what the big deal is. She’s not taking anybody’s spot; she’s not competing with anybody. The only people who are going to get hurt are some boys’ egos.”
While the legal situation proceeded, the nearest WNBA team to New Jersey stepped in after learning Sydney could not play ball for her school team. The New York Liberty invited Sydney to a practice and ran her through some drills.
“It was the experience of a lifetime for Sydney,” Phillips stated. “She was absolutely thrilled. She met Brittany Boyd, Sugar Rodgers, and Teresa Weatherspoon, and they put her through a nice half-hour practice of drills and shooting and running around, and they gave Sydney an honorary uniform with her name on it. It was just grand.”
Following the practice, the Phillips family gained a supporter: Teresa Weatherspoon.
“This was a no-brainer — it’s a young girl who wants to play the game of basketball, and all she wants to do is play,” Weatherspoon shared with Yahoo Sports. “The way we learned the game is playing with the guys. You just wanted to play against other athletes, and get better at a sport. And to be honest with you, Sydney Phillips can play the game. She is a talent. She wasn’t intimidated at all to be out on the floor with us. She was excited, she was motivated, and having so much fun.”