"My daughter was crying saying 'Does God still love me?'" the child's mother revealed.
An Oklahoma Christian elementary school reportedly expelled an 8-year-old student for telling another female student that she had a crush on her. The child's mother Delanie Shelton told CNN that her daughter Chloe was immediately removed from the playground after telling her peer about her crush last month. Chloe, a second-grader at Rejoice Christian School in Owasso, Oklahoma, was then made to spend the next few hours in the principal's office, missing class time as a result. "Before I was even called, the vice principal told Chloe that the Bible says that women can only have children with a man," Shelton revealed.
The girl’s mother says her daughter had been attending Rejoice Christian Schools in Owasso, Oklahoma, but says their family is not allowed to return.https://t.co/XIxTw9Tj4h— News 10 (@KTVL) January 29, 2021
"The vice-principal asked me how do I feel like girls liking girls and I said if we're being honest, I think it's okay for girls to like girls and she looked shocked and appalled," Shelton told FOX23. She added that she took her daughter home that day and was asked by administrators to not send the child to school on Friday. The superintendent called Shelton the next day to inform her that the school was "ending their partnership" with Shelton's family and that her 5-year-old son would also be expelled from the school to that end.
8-year-old girl and her younger brother kicked out of Christian school over 'crush' on female student | The Hill https://t.co/PfMfVDt2Qk— Bruce Lesley (@BruceLesley) January 31, 2021
So much for the words “rejoice” and Christian? They expelled two children because of...
"I was so blindsided. I was angry, hurt, betrayed, sad... so many different emotions. I just couldn't believe it," said Shelton. "I asked him to have a sit down meeting to discuss it and process it better and he refused, saying that 'nothing more needed to be discussed.'" Superintendent Joel Pepin declined to publicly comment on the incident in a statement to CNN, saying: "Due to privacy and other factors, it is the school's policy to refrain from public comments regarding any particular student or family." Rejoice initially cited the school's student handbook which states that "any form of sexual immorality" goes against its beliefs, including "professing to be homosexual/bisexual."
Students who do not "conform to the standards and ideals of work and life" at the school forfeit the "privilege" of attendance, it adds. Students are also not allowed to have public displays of affection, including holding hands, hugging or kissing, as per the handbook. While pregnancy is also grounds for dismissal, in some cases, the student may instead be "placed on homebound," so other students aren't "drawn by bad example to do likewise."
Rejoice Christian School received federal COVID-19 relief money through the CARES Act’s Payroll Protection Program (PPP).— Tiffany Alaniz (@TiffanyAlaniz) January 30, 2021
Tulsa attorney @SmolenDaniel says the federal funding received by Rejoice opens doors to multiple potential claims and lawsuits.https://t.co/KFguIrd334
"It wasn't a relationship nor a practice," Shelton said of the rules in the handbook. "Just a crush. To an 8-year-old, that could just mean that she really enjoys playing on the playground with her." The concerned mother added that Chloe was initially devastated following the incident. "My daughter was crying saying 'Does God still love me?'" she said. "They ripped my kids out of the only school they've ever really known away from their teachers and friends they've had over the past four years over something my daughter probably doesn't know or fully understand."
Chloe has received an outpouring of support from the community after news of the expulsion spread. When Kylie Holden — who attended Rejoice Christian School from Kindergarten to 12th grade before graduating in 2012 — heard about Chloe's experience, she was reminded of her years of turmoil at the school. Holden, who identifies as bisexual, said that her friends waited until they graduated to come out due to fear of being expelled. The idea that Chloe was questioning whether she deserved love from God or anyone shook the 26-year-old, who said: "That's the kind of detrimental stuff that you deal with for the rest of your life."
My cousin talking about the horrible Rejoice Christian School pic.twitter.com/UjRvZDTgdj— Austin Ferrell (@Aws10_4Real) January 28, 2021
Holden turned to Facebook to rally support for Chloe and her family during this difficult time, writing: "What do we do about Rejoice in Owasso expelling an 8-year-old girl for saying she has a crush on another girl? This has to be so confusing and painful for her. She doesn’t deserve to feel alone, and as a queer Rejoice Alum, I know she’s not. Let’s be the older gays the babies need." People from Canada to Louisiana responded to Holden's initiative to put together care packages for the Shelton family, offering to send money, gifts, or cards affirming Chloe.
"I just don't want her to feel like we did," Holden said. "I don't want her to grow up thinking that she is not worthwhile, because that is so not true." So far, Chloe has received more than 150 messages from people all over the US, informing her how proud they are of her and assuring the youngster that she is loved by them and God. "She's feeling so loved and supported now because of so many amazing people that have reached out to us," said Shelton. "She's excited for a fresh start at a new school."