New Jersey girl who sued to play on boys' basketball team kicked out of school

Thursday, February 2, 2017
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AJ Ross has the story.

KENILWORTH, New Jersey (WABC) -- For a young middle school athlete in New Jersey, it was supposed to be a night to remember after a special invite from the New York Liberty.

But as 12-year-old Sydney Phillips was running drills with Liberty players at their practice facility, her parents learned that she was kicked out of her school in Kenilworth, along with her sister.

"I don't even know how I'm going to tell them yet," Sydney's father, Scott Philips, said. "I don't want to ruin this moment. This is a great time for them, and unfortunately, on the way home or sometime tonight, we have to explain to them what's going on."

Last December, St. Theresa's School canceled their girls' basketball team after there weren't enough students interested.

Sydney and her family then fought to play on the boys' team, but the school refused even though the Archdiocese of Newark doesn't have a specific rule prohibiting that.

"I was like really bummed when I found out I couldn't play with the boys, because I'm better than them," Sydney said, laughing.

This then led to an unsuccessful legal battle with the archdiocese, after a judge sided with the school last month saying there was no legal foundation for her case.

"The school should embrace her spirit that she has shown," Scott Philips said. "She has done nothing to that school, she's a honor roll student, she's in the Honors Society, she's on the school council."

New York Liberty legend Teresa Weatherspoon said she can't fathom all of this coming from an institution where kids should be uplifted and not exiled.

"We are obligated to teach our kids," Weatherspoon said. "We're obligated send them to another level, we're obligated to show them who they can be."

During the shoot-around with the Liberty, Sydney was also presented with her own custom jersey.

Jim Goodness, with the Newark Archdiocese, pointed to a section of the parent-student handbook that reads, "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."

Goodness said all parents agree to the handbook each school year and that Scott Phillips signed a paper saying he understood the school handbook back in August of last year, therefore the removal of both his daughters from St. Theresa School "should not have come as a surprise."