A 12-year-old girl’s family has filed a lawsuit against St. Theresa, the New Jersey school that won’t allow her to play on its boys’ basketball team, NBC New York reported.
Scott Phillips filed the lawsuit against St. Theresa and the archdiocese of Newark after school administrators told his daughter, star basketball player Sydney Phillips, that there weren’t enough girls to form a team and that she couldn’t play on the boys’ team.
Sydney, a standout player, was named an “all-star” last season, after playing varsity basketball with seventh- and eighth-graders as a sixth-grader, her father said.
“I know the boys’ team and she would be the best player on the team.” Phillips told the Daily News. “I think she would help them.”
Phillips said that school officials hastily rejected Sydney’s family’s request to let her play on the boys’ team. Phillips said he was told that under school policy, girls play with other girls.
St. Theresa’s principal and athletic director, however, were unable to produce the policy in writing, Phillips said. He was rebuffed by the Archdiocese of Newark, too, which led him to take the case to court and “let a judge see how silly this is.”
“It’s a very simple solution,” he said. “Just move her over to the boys’ team. It’s one person.” Phillips said that the boys’ team has a “no cut policy,” meaning that no boy would lose his spot if Sydney were to join the team.
Officials argued that they were worried she would get hurt playing with boys, Phillips said.
“With all due respect it’s a sport,” Phillips said he told the superintendent of Catholic schools, Dr. Margaret Dames. Phillips said he understood that injuries in sports were common and that Sydney had already broken her thumb playing soccer.
Phillips said that his family is not seeking damages, and wants only for Sydney to get to play basketball this season.
“We made it clear we aren’t suing for any money, we just want a decision made and, unfortunately, we had to go through the court system,” he said.
The school also offers a co-ed basketball clinic, that Sydney has participated in since kindergarten. “So it’s ridiculous to say that boys and girls don’t play together, because they do,” Phillips said.
At one point, officials suggested Sydney play for another school’s team, while enrolled at St. Theresa. Sydney said that she wanted to play for St. Theresa, and not with kids she didn’t know.
“They should be embracing her school spirit,” Phillips said. “But instead of embracing it, they are breaking it.”