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Expelled gay student: 'Personally, I was shocked'

Jeffrey Woodard
Jeffrey Woodard

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(CNN) -- In West Palm Beach, Florida, 18-year-old student Jeffrey Woodard and his mother have sued Woodard's former school, alleging he was unfairly expelled by the Christian school after being coaxed into telling a teacher that he is gay.

In an exclusive interview, Woodard and his attorney, Trent Steele, discussed the case with CNN anchor Paula Zahn.

ZAHN: Let's start off with the whole question of your contention that you were expelled because you were gay. Can you categorically tell us that there is nothing else in your record that should have gotten you expelled from this school?

WOODARD: There is nothing at all. In fact, there is nothing else mentioned in the meeting between me and the president at the school. So personally, there is nothing really that they can say about me.

ZAHN: OK. Just describe to us when you had this meeting, what you were told.

WOODARD: When we had the meeting itself, it took place on a Sunday. We were asked to come -- we were taken into Mr. Richard Grimm's office, and he greeted us, gave us a handshake and he said, it has come to our attention that your son is a homosexual. He then asked what we would like to do about it, and then he paused waiting for a response.

ZAHN: And then what happened?

WOODARD: Personally, I was shocked. My mother didn't know what to say. She knew about my sexuality, though she didn't know what we were going for.

ZAHN: And you never had been given a written document with the reasons why you were expelled?

WOODARD: No. During the interview between the president and myself, dealing with my expulsion, there was an agreement made between my mother and the president, of which my mother asked that she receive a letter in writing, making the statement of why I was expelled. Unfortunately, the letter that the president had given her never stated why.

ZAHN: I'd like to read part of an open letter that the president of the school has sent out to the public. It says: "I can assure you that the allegations in the lawsuit are false, and Jupiter Christian School is confident that the legal system will fully exonerate the school. Jupiter Christian School officials did not out Mr. Woodard, nor did we violate any request for confidentiality."

What do you think of this response?

WOODARD: Well, unfortunately, that response is completely false. As of Friday, when Mr. Todd Bellhorn, the man who had asked me about my sexuality, came to me and talked to me about it, he stated that the conversation between us would be kept confidential. Unfortunately, that was not the case. He stated at the end of our conversation that he would have to inform the administration about it.

ZAHN: And Trent, finally we spoke with someone from the school tonight, who said that he couldn't come on the show, because Jeffrey's family has not signed a release that will allow him to share any records that would substantiate his case. And I guess there's an intimation that something perhaps is being hidden here. Is there?

STEELE: Not that I'm aware of. I have never been requested by anyone from the school for a release, neither has Jeffrey. So I don't know -- and I don't know of anything that would prohibit him from coming on here and telling us what the school's policy is concerning the admission or expulsion of gay and lesbian students.

And I've got the handbook here, the parent-student handbook here. We've gone through it.

ZAHN: And it lists three reasons, right?

STEELE: Yes.

ZAHN: And the three reasons for being expelled are committing a felony, assaulting a teacher, and/or possessing a weapon. All of these things that you deny Jeffrey has anything to do with.

STEELE: Correct. And there's nothing in his transcript that indicates why he was expelled. There are no behavioral problems that are noted. He was a good student there, he was well-liked. There really is no other reason. And any attempts by the school at this point to fabricate something are really unfortunate and frankly not very Christian, as far as I can see.

ZAHN: There is a report that Jeffrey did fail a couple of classes last year. Could that have anything to do with this?

STEELE: No. None whatsoever. Frankly, if it was that simple, they would have spelled that out. I mean, the letter that they gave Jeffrey, it is completely silent. And they could have ended this a long time ago, if that's the reason why.

They're just not man enough to stand up to the plate and tell people -- tell Jeffrey first, and then tell everyone else why they've expelled him.

And that's really what the lawsuit is about, is for schools like this to make it clear what their policy is, instead of blindsiding, you know, kids like Jeffrey.


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