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New Jersey Girl Returns to School After Expulsion Amid Battle Over Basketball

What to Know

  • Sydney Phillips and her family sued St. Theresa's School in Kenilworth after she wasn't allowed a shot to play on the boys' basketball team
  • She and her sister were expelled, and when they tried to go back to the school anyway Thursday, they were called trespassers
  • But an appellate judge ruled Thursday the girls must be let back pending a hearing. They returned on Monday and had a "great day"

Twelve-year-old Sydney Phillips had a "great day" on her first day back at school Monday after getting expelled last week amid a legal battle over whether she should be allowed to play on the boys basketball team, according to her father.

Sydney and her younger sister Caitlin returned to St. Theresa's School in Kenilworth, New Jersey, and were happy to be back with their teacher and friends, their father Scott Phillips told NBC 4 New York. Caitlin ran straight to her teacher and hugged her as soon as she got out of her father's car when he dropped her off.

Sydney has been reinstated to student council and was scheduled to attend a meeting Monday afternoon, Scott Phillips said. 

It was a different scene last Thursday, when Sydney and Caitlin were met by police, priests and a deacon outside the school and told they had been expelled and were now trespassers, their father said. 

The two girls had been kicked out of school because Phillips filed a lawsuit in December to let his daughter Sydney play on the boys' basketball team; there was no girls' team this season at St. Theresa's.

The Archdiocese of Newark cited the school's parent and student handbook, which says parents will be asked to remove their children from school if the parents name it in a legal matter or civil lawsuit. The Archdiocese said in a statement that Scott Phillips agreed to the handbook in writing last summer.

But last Friday, Appellate Court Judge Amy O'Connor ruled that Sydney and Caitlin must be let back in school pending a hearing.

The family filed papers Monday morning requesting that the temporary suspension of expulsion be made permanent so that the girls can stay at the school. 

Sydney said last week she didn't understand. 

"I just asked to play basketball and now I'm being expelled, it makes no sense at all," she told NBC 4 New York. "I don't want to go to any other school."

A different judge ruled in January that the family could not prove that the girl had a legally established right to play basketball with the boys. 

When NBC 4 New York attempted to reach the principal of St. Theresa's School last Thursday, the office quickly hung up the phone. 

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