NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A family’s fight to keep their daughter on a school basketball team has moved to a different kind of court.
As CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported, Newark Archbishop Cardinal Joseph Tobin is caught in the middle – having changed his position on whether the girl should be expelled.
“I suppose I was a little naïve,” Tobin said on the witness stand. “I thought, you know, that basketball was the issue.”
Sydney Phillips, 13, was expelled from St. Theresa’s School in Kenilworth, New Jersey in November after her father successfully sued the school to get her on the boys’ basketball team when the girls’ team was cancelled for the season.
He won the case, but the school then rejected the applications for Sydney and her younger sister to return in the fall — so he went back to court to try and reverse their expulsions.
“I’ve got eight sisters and I’ve got a lot of nieces and they all play sports, and I just was surprised that, you know, from the hard line on this,” Tobin said.
Tobin did reverse the expulsion earlier this year. But he 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, finally,” Tobin said. “I came to understand that it was about the tranquility of a scholastic community – you know, a Catholic school that had a particular mission and was unable to do it, because of, 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 that we filed the lawsuit. You know, they’re blaming us for all the bad publicity. It’s not us. It’s them. They’re the ones who created this mess,” Phillips said. “All they had to do was let Sydney play, which she was allowed to do, and this would have bene all over. But they’re the ones who created it. Every day they ask when the decision is coming. They want to come back to St. Theresa’s.”
Superior Court Judge Donald A. Kessler will make the ultimate decision as to whether the Phillips girls will be allowed back at St. Theresa’s School next month. Testimony resumes Friday.