New York

7th-Grade Girl Who Sued to Play on Boys Basketball Team Tries to Go To School After Expulsion, Told She's a Trespasser

"I just asked to play basketball and now I'm being expelled, it makes no sense at all"

The New Jersey school that expelled a seventh-grade girl after she sued for a chance to play on the boys basketball team blocked her and her sister from entering the building Thursday, with police, two priests and a deacon waiting outside, the girl's father says.

Sydney Phillips' father, Scott Phillips, told NBC 4 New York he tried to take his daughters to St. Theresa's School in Kenilworth, despite being informed Wednesday night the girls were no longer welcome.

"They said that the children had been expelled, and that they were now trespassers," Scott said.

"I just asked to play basketball and now I'm being expelled, it makes no sense at all," Sydney told NBC 4 New York. 

"I don't want to go to any other school," she said.

The Archdiocese of Newark cited the school's parent and student handbook, which says parents will be aksed to remove their children from school if the parents name it in a legal matter or civil lawsuit.

Sydney's family had sued the private school last December in a bid to allow her to play on the boys basketball team. There is no girls team at the school. 

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

When the WNBA's New York Liberty learned of Sydney's battle, they invited her to meet some of the players and practice with them on Wednesday night. NBC 4 New York was with them during the thrilling meeting, but the night took an unexpected turn when Scott got word from the family's attorney that both his daughters had been expelled. 

"I was baptized here, I got married here, and this is what the church does?" he told NBC 4. "These girls did nothing wrong. The church should be ashamed." 

Sydney and her sister Kaitlyn didn't learn of the expulsion until later, their father not wanting to ruin their exciting night with the Liberty. Scott told NBC 4 over the phone Thursday the girls were "hysterical" when they learned the news. 

Looking for answers, he tried taking his daughters to school anyway on Thursday morning. He said he found police, two priests and a deacon waiting. 

"I can't see what kind of message it sends," he said. "This is the only school these girls have ever known. And they did nothing wrong. They are honor-roll kids." 

The Archdiocese of Newark told NBC 4 New York in a statement that the parent and student handbook states: "If a parent implicates St. Theresa School in a legal matter, or names St. Theresa School as a defendant in a civil matter, the parent/guardian will be requested to remove their children immediately from the school."

"Mr. Phillips agreed in writing to the terms of the Handbook on August 30, 2016," the statement said.

Scott Phillips admits he signed the handbook but never imagined things would go this far. 

Other parents at the school said they don't understand why the church would close its school doors to honors students. 

"It's a shame it got so out of control," said parent Ryan Velez.

Velez, like other parents, remembers signing the handbook, but, he said, "you don't always read what's in there... but rules are rules." 

NBC 4 attempted to reach the principal of St. Theresa's School but the office quickly hung up the phone. 

The Phillips still intend to fight. But the Archdiocese at this point won't budge.

"It shouldn't have gone this far in the first place. All it took was someone there to make one decision," Scott Phillips said. 

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