St. Vincent’s dean defends rejection of student

The Very Rev. Ryan Reed, Dean of St. Vincent’s School, spoke with about the rejection of 4-year-old Olivia Harrison from his school because her parents are lesbian.

St. Vincent’s Episcopal School is actually a part of the breakaway Diocese of Fort Worth which still uses the title “Episcopal” even though they have disavowed any connection to the Episcopal Church and claim a connection to the Province of the Southern Cone and ACNA.

In the interview he ultimately cites his own pastoral sensitivity –that he didn’t want Olivia’s classmates to find out she had two mommies and get into it –as his rational for school policy. He does not consider whether she or her parents are emotionally equipped to deal with this. He laments the fact that if the mommies were in his parish he could show them how we are all sexual sinners.

DV: Why was Olivia Harrison denied admission to St. Vincent?

Dean Ryan Reed: When we met with Jill and learned of her family situation, we told her that the values taught at the school were in conflict with those at home. We thought this might put Olivia in a very conflicted situation to which Jill agreed. We don’t dispute God’s love for this family just that one of the basic Christian values that we subscribe to is sexual activity inside a faithful, lifelong relationship between a husband and wife. As best we could ascertain, this was not something that Jill was in agreement about.

DV: Why did the school fail to notice in more than two months that Jill Harrison had crossed out father and put mother on the application, and written in the name of her wife, Tracy Harrison?

Reed: When the admissions officer saw the changes on the application, she made 4 or 5 phone calls and sent at least one email asking for clarification, none of which were returned. We don’t have documentation of the phone calls but we do for the email….

…DV: Is it true that St. Vincent would allow Olivia Harrison to attend the school if she were a single, unmarried lesbian?

Reed: Yes. Our handbook asks our parents and requires our staff to abide by basic Christian values. That means abstinence or sexual activity confined to marriage. We have been consistent with this policy in that an unmarried teacher became pregnant and was dismissed. Likewise, we turned away two men with a daughter two years ago, and like the Harrison’s, referred them to a school where they would be more comfortable and their relationship accepted. (They are doing quite well there by the way). We have banned a husband from the school who left his wife for another women. The child stayed with the mother in this case and was not asked to leave.

We are simply asking people to strive toward the traditional Christian teaching in matters of how we live our lives. We don’t follow people around if they are single and dating to make sure the date stops at the front door. We don’t monitor what husband and wives are doing. But if something becomes public, we try to handle it in a pastoral and private way. By nature, Jill and Tracey’s relationship is very public.

We recognize that every parent who comes here is by nature prone to sin. We simply ask that they attempt to live by basic Christian values. In this case, the Harrison’s relationship was by nature in opposition to this belief and it is by nature a requirement that they cannot meet.

DV: How do you justify punishing a 4-year-old girl for who her parents are?

Reed: Back to the first answer. Because this young girl would likely hear Christian teaching on marriage at St. Vincent’s as well as the struggle that we all have with sin, she might be put in a place where she questioned not only the values of her mother but her moral authority as well. Olivia would certainly find herself in conflict with most of classmates when it comes to this very tough subject. We would not want this to happen to Jill, Tracey, or Olivia. It seems far from punishment to me, in fact, it seems more loving to refer them to a school that can accommodate their family situation rather than put her in a situation where the moral legitimacy (and still in Texas the legal legitimacy) of her mom’s relationship is called into question.

In another story, DallasVoice also spoke to Olivia and her biological mother, Jill Harrison.

Regardless of whether Olivia fully understands the decision, she can now tell you why she’ll be starting pre-kindergarten at another school next week, instead of St. Vincent’s.

“They don’t like that I have two mommies,” Olivia says.

“She’s just repeating, so we’re careful about what we’re telling her,” said Jill Harrison. “I don’t want her to think that she in any way shape or form did anything wrong.”

Olivia, who’d been accepted into St. Vincent’s earlier this summer, was set to start on Monday, Aug. 23. But school officials abruptly changed their mind last week after learning that her parents, Jill and Tracy Harrison, are a lesbian couple..

More on the story here and here and here

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