The department said it would need to analyze any case to determine if a school had violated federal discrimination regulations. But it noted that educational institutions controlled by religious organizations are exempt from some federal requirements that might conflict with the organizations’ religious tenets.
Grace and other private colleges that accept federal student aid — sometimes called Title IV funding — must abide by the Civil Rights Act that forbids discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex, age or physical handicap. But sexual orientation is not included in that list.
“There’s a long history of institutions of higher education that are faith-based participating in Title IV programs without having to compromise their institutional statement of faith or institutional statement of practice,” said Ronald Kroll, director of the accreditation commission for the Association for Biblical Higher Education, which includes Grace University.
As required by the university after her suspension, Powell said she promised not to engage in sex and completed months of church attendance and meetings with Christian mentors, spiritual advisers and other groups. She was then readmitted, only to receive a letter days later from the university’s vice president, Michael James, revoking her admittance.
James wrote that her re-admittance had been based on professions she made to various faculty and staff that she would change her behavior, but that “the prevailing opinion is that those professions appear to have been insincere, at best, if not deceitful.”
“I was livid,” Powell said. “I had done everything they asked me to do. I drove over to my mentors’ house and just bawled my eyes out.”
Powell legally married another woman in neighboring Iowa in December, but the couple still lives across the border in Omaha and has found support online. Her wife, Michelle Rogers, posted a petition on change.org asking the university to drop the tuition bill.
“Being kicked out of school for being gay would have been awful enough, but Danielle’s nightmare didn’t end there,” Rogers wrote. “In addition to being expelled, school officials revoked her scholarships and are hounding her for $6,000 in back-due tuition for the final semester — which she was never allowed to complete — that her scholarships would have covered.”
As of Friday, the petition had been signed by more than 35,000 people.
What do you think? Is the school wrong for expelling the student? Comment below.