MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Roman Catholic high school in Tennessee has been sued for $1 million after it prohibited a homosexual student from bringing a boy as his date to the school dance.
According to reports, last September, all-male Christian Brothers High School (CBHS) student Lance Sanderson asked for permission to bring a male student from another school as his homecoming date.
His request was denied, but he was told it was for “logistical reasons” as the student was from another school. CBHS does not allow boys from other schools to attend the homecoming dance.
“CBHS students may attend the dance by themselves, with other CBHS students, or with a girl from another school. For logistical reasons, boys from other schools may not attend,” its policy reads.
Sanderson had come out to Principal Chris Fay in 2012, and alleges in his lawsuit that Fay “acted as if he were ashamed, embarrassed and disapproving of” Sanderson’s homosexuality.
Following the denial, Sanderson posted about the matter on Facebook and was suspended a week after going public on the issue, which generated media attention. He also launched a petition on Change.org.
“When I first started to float the idea of bringing a same-sex date to homecoming, I was told that my school doesn’t discriminate by a school official,” he wrote. “But when that school official left over the summer, I was met with harsh opposition by my school.”
“One administrator told me that even though some people interpreted Pope Francis’s teachings on the issue as meaning they should support same-sex couples, these people are ‘not the authority to which Christian Brothers High School is accountable,'” the petition outlined.
Sanderson’s lawsuit states that his parents met with officials after being suspended, but “[t]here was no discussion nor option for Lance to return to CBHS. It was made clear to the [Sandersons] that Lance was not allowed to return to CBHS.”
While Sanderson did indeed return to school, he said that students called him derogatory names, so he decided to complete his schooling at home.
“Everyone thought I had been expelled,” he told NBC. “It was pretty clear that I wasn’t welcome on campus … I was sure it wasn’t going to be good for me to be there for the rest of the year.”
Sanderson went on to receive his diploma and now attends college, but is suing for $1 million over “severe injuries and damages which include, but are not limited to disability, past and future emotional distress, past and future medical expenses, and personal care services, and these damages are either permanent or continuing…”
His parents also allege breach of contract as they paid for him to attend CBHS in his senior year. They state that the school “failed to comply with the terms of the agreement by failing to provide Lance with an education during his senior year and failed to allow him to attend school during the majority of his senior year.”
“As a private school, CBHS held itself out to be nondiscriminatory with regard to sexual orientation,” Sanderson’s attorney told reporters. “In our eyes, it seems very clear those were hollow words … They were not interested in treating [Lance] the same as other students.”
CBHS officials have not yet commented on the lawsuit.