Lesbian Couple Say School Denied Son’s Admission Because Of His Sexuality

An LGBTQ+ couple from Maryland claim a school denied their child admission because of his “lifestyle”, leaving the sixth grader upset and his mothers perplexed. Now, in response to a complaint, school officials are offering alternative explanations for the letter they sent to the couple.

His family is typical, says 11-year-old Brayden Stratton.

He lives with his engaged mothers, Megan Stratton and Jennifer Dane, and a Bernedoodle named Freya, four goldendoodles and Scottsdale, the family cat, in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Brayden prays and reads his Bible as a Christian. Family friends who teach and have children at Grace Academy suggested the non-denominational Christian School of Washington County to Brayden and his parents, who decided to apply.

Last week, Stratton and Dane, a disabled veteran and CEO of the LGBTQ+ veterans advocacy group Modern Military Association of America, told Brayden he couldn’t go to school with his friends.

Grace Academy rejected him because his parents are gay, they told him.

Brayden tells the lawyer he is sad and doesn’t understand why some religious people mistreat others.

“My mothers are gay, and that doesn’t make me gay, but it doesn’t matter because we’re all normal,” he says.

the lawyer obtained a letter signed by Grace Academy’s graduate school principal, Mark H. Koontz Jr., which states, “We regret to inform you that due to a lifestyle contrary to the vision of the biblical world that we teach, we have decided to refuse admission to Grace Academy. “

On the phone with the lawyer, Dane asks rhetorically, “How do you deny admission to a bright and talented student based on uncontrollable factors?”

In the April 27 admissions interview, Stratton says, Koontz said Brayden would be a great addition to Grace Academy.

But the tone of the meeting changed when the couple asked the school about its anti-bullying policies, she said.

Stratton recalls Koontz saying he couldn’t control the reaction of the Grace Academy community and that he should consult with the school’s principal about admitting Brayden.

He sent the rejection letter, dated May 8.

Emails viewed by the lawyer show Dane’s conversations with Grace Academy officials.

After the lawyer tried to contact him, the school’s principal, Greg Whitley, wrote in an email to the couple that their sexual orientation was not the issue.

He wrote that a lack of regular church attendance, prayers, and family devotions conflicted with the school’s worldview and was the “lifestyle” referred to. But, he said, he “decided” to refund the previously non-refundable $50 application fee and provide a written recommendation from a Grace Academy teacher on behalf of Brayden, who Koontz said was impossible to obtain earlier.

Dane rejects Whitley’s explanation out of hand.

“[Koontz] said he wouldn’t be sure how to respond if the parents complained about our lifestyle during the interview,” she says. “And he didn’t care if other people thought we went to church enough.

She thinks school officials are now lying after she was caught discriminating in writing.

“Koontz literally said he had to talk to the school principal and the board about our ‘lifestyle’ as an LGBTQ+ family,” Dane explains. Koontz said going to church does not reflect a person’s ability to be a Christian, she adds.

In the posts, Koontz doesn’t seem to care about Brayden or his parents’ faith or their frequency of worship.

Dane says they previously provided school leaders with examples of “lifestyles” of members of the school community that did not fit a strictly Christian worldview.

“We are keenly aware that families within the Grace Academy community live a lifestyle contrary to the biblical worldviews that Grace Academy purports to teach,” Dane wrote. “In our interview, Mr. Koontz specifically noted that Grace Academy had a Muslim family, and if he had been the admissions officer for elementary school, he would have denied their admission to the school.”

The letter continues: “In addition, several families, [one of which we know], are still married, but the husband lives with his girlfriend, who fathers his child – this is adultery. Does this mean that their children will be asked to leave school to adopt a “lifestyle” contrary to the biblical worldviews taught by Grace Academy, or is this acceptable because they are a heterosexual family? “

They received no response, the women say.

Koontz and Whitley did not respond to The lawyer’s questions about Grace Academy’s criteria for an unbiblical lifestyle. But Koontz sent this statement:

“Our admissions committee’s decision was based on our understanding that the future family was actively pursuing a relationship with Christ,” he wrote. “If a future family is not going to church, praying, reading the Bible or taking other outward steps in exercising their faith, then we consider that lifestyle is a lifestyle contrary to the biblical worldview we teach. It was and is the basis of the decision. The sexual orientation of the prospective student’s parents was not part of our consideration.

Hagerstown Mayor Emily Keller is appalled by the decision. “While private schools can set their own rules, any form of discrimination is not welcome here,” she says.

“I find it unfair that someone can be discriminated against simply because of [who] his parents are,” Keller says.

It is alarming that the letter mentions that it is based on their “way of life”, she explains.

Democratic U.S. Representative David Trone of Maryland, whose district includes Grace Academy, says the school’s actions do not reflect the community.

“For Grace Christian Academy to deny acceptance of a child because their loving parents happen to be gay is shocking and reprehensible,” Trone told The Advocate. “I am in solidarity with the student and his family.”

Trone’s spokesperson said staff are investigating the matter.

Trone urges the LGBTQ+ community to “be proud and never be ashamed of who you are.”

An adviser to Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan led the lawyer at the State Department of Education.

He investigates whether state funds went to Grace. A spokesperson said the department reviews nonpublic schools and oversees BOOST (Broadening Opportunities and Opportunities for Students Today) and Nonpublic Textbook and Technology Programs.

In 2017, Grace Academy withdrew from the state’s BOOST program after a review found violations of anti-discrimination requirements to receive state funds.

In the eyes of Brayden’s family, the irony is that he just wanted a quality education and to express his Christian faith.

“So they’re punishing a great kid, who we know is straight, whatever, and taking him away from his faith because he has gay mothers,” Dane said. “This is where we are.”

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