Family claims school expelled daughter over successful lawsuit

Posted at 12:05 PM, Aug 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-04 12:05:59-04

NEWARK, NJ (WCBS/NET TV/CNN) - The archbishop testified in court Thursday as a family fights their daughters' Catholic school expulsion.

From the court to the courtroom, a dispute that started over a spot on the boys basketball team escalated.

"I suppose I was a little naive. I thought basketball was the issue," said Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the archbishop of Newark.

Sydney Phillips was expelled from Saint Theresa's School in November when she was just 12, after her father successfully sued the school to get her on the boys' basketball team.

"I've got eight sisters and I've got a lot of nieces, and they all play sports so I was surprised about the hard line on this," Tobin said.

Tobin, who reversed the expulsion earlier this year, said new information caused him to have a change of heart and grant the school's request to deny Sydney and her sister admission for the next school year.

"I came to understand that it wasn't about basketball," Tobin said. "I came to understand that it was about the tranquility of a scholastic community. You know, a Catholic school, it had a particular mission, and it was unable to do it because of the - frankly - because of the behavior of the parents."

Defendant Scott Phillips said his daughter's denial of admission is simply payback.

"Because it's retaliation of that we filed the lawsuit," Phillips said. "They're blaming us for all the bad publicity. It's not us; it's them. They're the ones who created this mess. All they had to do was let Sydney play, which she was allowed to do, and this would have been all over. But they're the ones who created it. Every day, they ask, 'When is the decision coming?' They want to go back to St. Theresa's."

Judge Donald Kessler will make the ultimate decision as to whether the Phillips girls will allowed back at Saint Theresa's School next month.

Testimony resumes Friday.

Copyright 2017 WCBS and NET TV via CNN. All rights reserved.