Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Secular School Selection


Another guest post by Dana


Olivia Harrison's parents spent a great deal of time looking into pre-kindergarten programs for their daughter. They found a school they liked and started the admissions process at St. Vincent's School in Texas. This summer, each time her family drove past the campus, they pointed out the school and reminded Olivia that she would be starting pre-kindergarten there in August.

But on the first day of school, Olivia was not one of the students at St. Vincent's School. Administrators at the private Christian school denied her admission because they do not agree with her parents' lesbian relationship.

Jill and Tracy Harrison were married in Canada in 2006. They filled out an application for St. Vincent's School in June. But last week, just a week before school started, they were told that Olivia could not enroll because their relationship is against the traditional beliefs of the Anglican Church.

"The canons of our church take a traditional stand on Christian marriage," St. Vincent's School chaplain Randall Foster said. "We didn't want to send the tacit message that we endorse the relationship. We cannot do anything that would give legitimacy to same-sex relationships."

Fortunately, the Harrisons found a new, nonreligious school for their daughter, but they said they are disappointed that their relationship became a factor in her admission.

"What we do when we come home and shut the door should not affect our daughter getting an education," Tracy Harrison said. "We want it to be fair."

Tracy Harrison said that she was raised in a Baptist church and that the couple chose St. Vincent's School after researching schools with good academics that would teach basic Christian beliefs. Jill Harrison, when she filled out enrollment forms for Olivia, wrote in her name as the girl's mother, crossed out father, wrote mother and listed Tracy's name in that spot.

Apparently school officials assumed that Tracy was a man, but when Olivia's parents attended a parents night in mid-August, schools officials called a meeting with Jill Harrison to say that the child could not enroll.

"The only responsible thing was to say this is not a good fit," Foster said. "We were trying to protect Olivia, protect the other children from being exposed to the culture wars and stand up for our theological position."

What do you think? Was the secular school right to deny admission to the child of a family who clearly violated their religious teachings? Had St. Vincent's allowed Olivia to attend the school, would it have benefited Olivia to learn in an environment that admonished her parents relationship? Was it irresponsible of Olivia's parents to consider enrolling her in a secular school?



Sujomi said...

I don't agree with the decision, but they are a private school and can place restrictions on their admissions.

But I wonder, do they admit children of divorced parents, children of parents who are co-habitating without the marriage contract, children of single moms (who made the choice to have a child without a father in the picture), children of alcoholics, etc...you know, all those families whose "values" do not follow their religious teachings as well. Do they investigate each and every family to the same degree? I'm thinking that answer would be "No".

Jay said...

Obviously, I disagree with the school's decision, but as a private religious school has the legal right to do this. I think their arguments are weak and narrow minded, but oh well.

And I guess if you want to send your kid to a school that teaches "basic Christian beliefs" then that's great, but can't those be taught at home and the church? And, if those "basic Christian beliefs" will be to teach the kid that her parents are going to hell then that's probably not going to work out well.

Also, people looking for good academics in a freaking pre-school drive me crazy, but that wasn't the point of you post. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Mike Golch said...

I love narrowed mindedness.

Karen said...

The school has every right to sculpt their student body to reflect the tenants of their beliefs. Other parents who pay for an education steeped in those moral tenants, have the right to expect that their children will not be exposed to families which do no reflect those tenants.

Of course there is a lesson in tolerance that could be learned by inclusion of different families. And my personal Christian morals do not align with this particular school.

However, in the end I don't have a real problem with the child not being allowed admission to the school. In fact, I have some level of respect for an institution who upholds its values rather than saying "your money is just as green".

Dana said...

Sujomi, I'm with you - as long as the standard is set equally for all, I have no issue with their practice. I may not agree with their decision, but that is something completely different.

Jay, see, there is a side of me that questions if the parents did this just to create drama. If I were sending my son to a secular school I would certainly want to insure they teaching the same moral code that I was living.

Dana said...

Mike Golch, there are some things in life you cannot regulate/legislate - like narrow mindedness, ignorance and stupidity!

Karen, I felt similarly - although I don't like the school's decision, good for them for standing up for what they believe in.

SkylersDad said...

"The canons of our church take a traditional stand on Christian marriage," St. Vincent's School chaplain Randall Foster said.

I don't think I want my kid going to a church that has to use canons, the smell of gun powder and noise would detract from the learning process.

Mike said...

Out of all the Episcopal dioceses in the US they picked one of the wrong ones. Most of them are very tolerant. Our church is an oasis church. But my wife said there are three dioceses in the US that are granite head conservative. The Fort Worth diocese is one of them.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

It's their legal right to disallow admission to anyone, but I don't think they did the right thing. A true Christian church would not punish a child for the "sins" of the parents (I put that in quotes b/c I don't think it's a sin, personally).

We sent our son to a Catholic elementary school and they even kept the bad kids who should have been expelled because they figured a nurturing, Christian environment might turn the kid around.

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...

1) It is the schools right to deny or admit anyone they want

2) basic Christian tenants include love for everyone...not sure this school teaches basic Christian tenants

3) It would have served the moms to talk about this with the school even before applying. Why? because you have to know that it will cause some issues 1) in Texas b) in a Christian school environment

4) I am glad they found a new school and hope they move on instead of making a commotion...if they make a commotion, then I agree with you, they are doing so to cause waves.

we're doomed said...

The question I would ask first is this. Is this school basing their decision on the old testament or the new testament or both testaments? The answer to that question would be how I formed my opinion on their decision. Regardless of whether they are right or wrong or somewhere in-between on the decision they made. It's the school's right to associate with who they want, period.

Real Live Lesbian said...

Let's hope they're New Testament believers. Because that Old Testament's kinda hard to keep up with these days. Those folks will stone you for the least little thing.

How they could not KNOW that it would stir up controversy is beyond me. I'm falling on the side of the fence that says they knew.