KENILWORTH, NJ — Sydney Phillips, of Kenilworth, and her sister were expelled from St. Theresa’s School in Kenilworth after their family took legal action against the school for forbidding Sydney to play on the boys’ basketball team. The girls’ team was cut due to lack of interest.
“Our attorney received an email on Feb. 1 requesting that our daughters not return to school,” Scott Phillips told LocalSource over the phone on Feb. 9. “We filed an order to allow them back to school on Feb. 2, but it was too late so they returned on Monday, Feb. 6. The original suit to allow Sydney to play on the boys’ team is still in the appeals process.”
The school’s policy states that if parents are involved in legal action against the school, their children may be asked to leave the school. The decision to re-enroll the girls in school is just a temporary decision, according to the Archdiocese of Newark.
“This was an action that temporarily reinstated the girls until a hearing takes place,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Newark Jim Goodness told LocalSource over the phone on Feb. 9. “This is a temporary situation. The family signed a letter at the beginning of the school year that stated if they engage in any legal action against the school, their children would be expelled.”
Sydney feels she is being discriminated against, because she knows two St. John the Apostle School girls in Clark, who she says play on their private school’s boys’ basketball team.
“The school is part of the same diocese and these two girls are allowed to play on the boys’ team,” Sydney Phillips told LocalSource over the phone on Feb. 9. “I feel I’m being treated unfairly.”
When this matter was brought to the attention to the Archdiocese of Newark, they claimed it was a mistake that has already been rectified.
“These two girls were offered positions on the girls’ team once the situation was discovered,” Goodness said. “They both took the opportunity to play on the girls’ team. Once boys and girls reach middle school age, they are no longer permitted to play sports together. The athletic director at that school made a mistake by allowing the two girls to play on the boys’ team.”
Phillips feels that it was unfair for his daughters to be asked to leave the school, when he was told to initiate legal action by the school.
“I met with Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dames and Sister Patricia Butler who advised me three times to have my lawyer call their lawyer,” Scott Phillips said on Feb. 9. “When I did what I was told, my daughters were expelled.”
When comment from Dames was sought by LocalSource Feb. 13, the newspaper was told that she would not speak to the press, and was directed to Goodness.
Phillips also referenced a procedure regarding boy/girl participation in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association 2016-2017 Constitution. In the “Procedures” section, under “Boy/Girl Participation,” it reads, “based on the directives of the Commissioner of Education, girls shall be allowed to participate in any boys’ sports teams, on an equal basis with boys, provided that the same sports team is not available to girls at that school.”
“This rule only pertains to high school sports,” Goodness said.
According to the organization’s website, the NJSIAA is made up of 433 accredited public, private and nonpublic high schools in the state.
When LocalSource contacted Sports Director of Catholic Youth Organization Athletics for the Archdiocese of Newark Rich Donovan, to request their rule regarding this issue, he was unavailable to comment prior to press time Feb. 14.
Although, when two girls were discovered to be playing on the St. John the Apostle School’s basketball team in Clark, Donovan was quoted saying that the team would not be allowed to play until the girls were removed from the CYO team.
According to St. Theresa’s School’s website, there is a co-ed basketball clinic held for grades 5 to 8 in the fall and winter seasons. Although there was no girls’ basketball team for the winter 2016-17 season at St. Theresa’s, the website states that there is also a varsity and junior varsity girls’ basketball program for grades 5 to 8 during the winter season. It also states that there is a varsity and junior varsity boys’ basketball program for grades 5 to 8 during the winter season.