Parents of NJ girl who wanted to play with boys bullied Catholic school, officials say
KENILWORTH — The archbishop of Newark says it was a "very difficult decision" not to allow two sisters to return to their Catholic school after a dispute over one of them wanting to play on the boys basketball team.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin on Thursday testified he decided not to allow 13-year-old Sydney Phillips and her younger sister, Kaitlyn, to re-enroll because their parents' behavior was not in the best interest of St. Theresa School in Kenilworth.
Lawyers for the archdiocese and for the Scotch Plains family have accused each party of bullying and harassment.
The parents are seeking a court order to allow the girls to return in the fall.
A different judge had denied the family's attempt to get Sydney on the boys team after the girls team was canceled.
Wednesday in Superior Court, school administrators testified that the girls' parents bullied and harassed school staff and made some fear for their safety, NJ.com reported.
In February, the school called police to escort the family off school property.
Sydney's basketball team drama was not the only run-in her parents had with school officials.
The principal also testified that Scott Philips last year demanded that he be informed if his 8th grade son did not make valedictorian because his wife would "analyze every single grade that went into the average," according to NJ.com, which covered the the day of testimony.
"It was very intimidating," Sister Helene Godin was quoted as saying at trial by NJ.com. "I got out of the office after Mr. Phillips left, and I remember saying out loud, 'I have been bullied.'"
The sisters were expelled last school year after their parents sued. The Catholic school cited a clause in the school handbook allowing expulsion “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.”
An appeals court ruled that the girls had to be allowed back to school pending the outcome of a court hearing. Cardinal Joseph Tobin reversed the expulsion and ordered Sydney to be allowed on the boys team for the rest of the year.
But after the school year, the school denied their renewal applications for the next year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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