Danielle Powell (pictured right) was close to earning her diploma in 2012, until Grace University discovered her lesbian relationship. The university responded by kicking her out, rescinding her scholarship and sacking her with a $6,300 tuition bill.
Now, Powell is fighting back with an online petition to get the school to relinquish the debt.
According to HuffPo Black Voices, Powell began her same-sex relationship in 2011-the first time she identified as gay. When Grace, religious institution, found out about the relationship, they ordered Powell to a judiciary board to determine if she should stay or not.
Though the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act bars the institution from publicly discussing a student’s record, Grace’s handbook states that “Any student involved in sexually immoral behavior, including premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual acts, is at minimum placed on University probation and may be subject to a Judiciary Hearing.”
Watch a HuffPo report about Powell and her fight:
Powell claims the board treated her like a “sexual predator,” eventually suspending her in March 2011. In the meantime, they offered her a second chance through their restoration program, which involved counseling and frequent church attendance. Though she began the process in summer 2011, Powell was still dating her girlfriend before the start of the spring 2012 semester, leading to her removal from the school.
In a letter, the university’s Vice President, Michael James, informed Powell that she was expelled because she was being “deceitful” and it “would be impossible for the faculty of Grace University to affirm your Christian character, a requirement for degree conferral.”
In fall 2012, Grace informed Powell that she could only get her credits if she paid the $6,300 tuition bill from the semester when she was suspended for her relationship. Powell also says the university has withheld her official transcripts, a charge they deny.
James told HuffPo that they charged Grace because anyone who withdraws before a semester is 60% complete usually owes a balance; federal law mandates Grace return any financial aid she received during that semester.
Powell’s partner, Michelle Rogers (pictured right of Powell), began the petition to force Grace to withdraw the debt. It was sparked after Powell proposed to Rogers at a Macklemore concert in December. Rogers says they were asked if they were involved in LBGTQ activism, specifically against Grace’s policies.
“I feel that it’s important that kind of discrimination should not happen towards an individual,” she said.
As for Powell, she isn’t giving up yet.
“College was always kind of one of those things I never thought was an option for me because of my financial background,” she said. “It’s something I’ve invested too much in to not finish.”
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