A seventh-grade girl expelled from her New Jersey school after her family sued to give her a chance to play on the boys basketball team, must be allowed to attend class, an appeals court judge ruled Friday.
The decision comes a day after police, two priests and a deacon waiting outside St. Theresa's School in Kenilworth blocked basketball player Sydney Phillips and her sister from entering the building, igniting a social media firestorm.
According to the order issued by Appellate Court Judge Amy O'Connor Friday, the 12-year-old Phillips and her younger sister, who had also been expelled amid the ongoing litigation, must be let back in school pending a hearing.
Sydney Phillips' father, Scott Phillips, told NBC 4 New York he planned to take both girls to school Monday.
Earlier this week, he had been told his girls were no longer welcome on the premises.
"They said that the children had been expelled, and that they were now trespassers," Phillips said.
The two girls had been kicked out of school because Phillips filed a lawsuit in December to let his daughter Sydney play on the boys' basketball team; there was no girls' team this season at St. Theresa's.
The Archdiocese of Newark cited the school's parent and student handbook, which says parents will be asked to remove their children from school if the parents name it in a legal matter or civil lawsuit. The Archdiocese said in a statement that Scott Phillips agreed to the handbook in writing last summer.
Sydney didn't understand.
"I just asked to play basketball and now I'm being expelled, it makes no sense at all," she told NBC 4 New York. "I don't want to go to any other school."
A different judge ruled in January that the family could not prove that the girl had a legally established right to play basketball with the boys. Under the appellate ruling Friday, the Phillips' attorney has until Monday to file a legal brief and the school's lawyers have until Tuesday to respond.
Phillips admits he signed the handbook but never imagined things would go this far.
Other parents at the school said they don't understand why the church would close its school doors to honors students.
"It's a shame it got so out of control," said parent Ryan Velez.
Velez, like other parents, remembers signing the handbook, but, he said, "you don't always read what's in there ... but rules are rules."
NBC 4 New York attempted to reach the principal of St. Theresa's School Thursday but the office quickly hung up the phone.