As children across the country head back to school, four-year-old Olivia Harrison of Bedford, Texas must find another school. Olivia is the latest child to be denied admission to a church school because of her parents’ sexual orientation.
Olivia’s parents, Jill and Tracy Harrison, spent a considerable amount of time researching the best school for their daughter. Ultimately they chose St. Vincent’s Cathedral School in Bedford, a suburb of Dallas, because they thought it would do a good job of imparting “the basic Bible teachings…follow the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments, be kind to your neighbor.”
St. Vincent’s and the Harrison family appeared a mutual good fit, right up until a recent parent’s night during orientation week at the school. Though Jill had listed both she and Tracy as Olivia’s mothers, school officials say they assumed Tracy was a man. Parent’s night confirmed otherwise, and shortly thereafter the Harrisons learned that Olivia was no longer welcome to attend the school on the grounds of their lesbian relationship.
It should be noted that St. Vincent’s is an Episcopal school no longer affiliated with the Episcopal Church in the United States. In 2008, amidst the controversy surrounding the denomination’s decision to ordain its first openly gay bishop [V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire], St. Vincent’s broke ranks with the Episcopal Church and chose to realign itself with the much more conservative Anglican Province of the Southern Cone (which includes dioceses in South America).
In a statement e-mailed to CNN, Rev. Ryan Reed, one of the school’s administrators, said that “we based our decisions about enrollment on what is best for the children of St. Vincent’s as a whole, and in conformity with the above standards.” By standards, Rev. Reed is referring to the school’s interpretation of the “clear teaching of the Christian faith” and its principles “in matters of marriage and sex outside of marriage.”
Though Jill and Tracy are disappointed by the school’s decision, they say they would not want their daughter to be enrolled at a school that does not condone their relationship. Theologically, they think differently than the school.
“The God that I know and the God that I love will love me and love my children no matter what,” said Tracy.
If this story sounds familiar, it is.
Two other schools – both Catholic – that have rescinded admissions offers this year because a child’s parents were lesbians. One of these incidents took place in Boulder, Colorado; the other took place in Boston, Massachusetts.
GLAAD is closely monitoring the media coverage of the Harrison family’s story, and has already worked to make substantial changes to problematic terminology in both local and national news outlets. In addition, we are proactively engaging national media to increase the visibility of educational discrimination on the basis of a child’s parents’ sexual orientation – an unfortunate problem that is occurring far too often.