Just a few days before their daughter's first day of kindergarten, the mothers of a 5-year-old girl were reportedly told by the Mt. Erie Christian Academy in California that she was barred from attending the school -- because her parents are in a same-sex relationship.
ABC 10 reports that the girl, whose identity has not been shared with press, attended the school's pre-k and summer school program. Now, her parents, Sheena and Lashaune, fear that removing their daughter from her friends and teachers could be emotionally stressful.
"If we knew from the beginning that this was unacceptable, they didn't condone or believe in this, if it was such a big deal, we would have never started her off there," Sheena, who didn't want her last name used, told ABC 10. "I would never put my child's emotional wellbeing in an unstable setting like that."
Sheena and Lashaune said they're looking for an attorney and want to take legal action against the school.
"I want my baby to be safe when she grows up," Sheena said. "I don't want her to ever have to be discriminated against because of her lifestyle. That's not fair."
ABC 10 reports that Mt. Erie is a private school that, according to "filings with the federal government...[the school] does not receive any public funds." Therefore, pressing legal charges against the school based on discrimination could become complicated under federal law.
"[The school's decision] is not unconstitutional because the constitution does not apply to the private sector," Rick Rossein, a professor at CUNY School of Law, told MTV News. "It would be a question of whether at a federal or state statute which prohibits this type of discrimination for a private school."
Rossein also noted that the child's parents might be able to take legal action based on California state law.
"There's something called the Unruh Act, a civil rights statute, which says you cannot discriminate against a business patron in unlawful ways...and they have a very broad definition of what's prohibited in terms of discrimination," Rossein said. "So it's on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical conditions, genetic information, marital status or sexual orientation in all business establishments of every kind."
"So, then I say, okay, is a religious organization a business establishment? Apparently, the California Supreme Court has interpreted business establishment in the broadest sense," Prof. Rossein told MTV News. "They say that it must be interpreted 'in the broadest sense reasonably possible.'"
"The Unruh applies to for-profit commercials, but also non-profit," Rossein said. "And it also applies to religious organizations, so I think they may very well have a handle here to go after this school."
According to the school's parent and student handbook, which Sheena and Lashaune showed ABC 10, Mt. Erie Christian Academy states that it can bar students from attending, based on its commitment to promoting a "Biblical lifestyle":
Mt. Erie Christian Academy is a religious, Bible-believing institution providing education in a distinct Christian environment, and it believes that its biblical role is to work in conjunction with the home to mold students to be Christ like. On those occasions in which the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home is counter to or in opposition to the biblical lifestyle that the school teaches, the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, living in, condoning or supporting sexual immorality; practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity; promoting such practices; or otherwise having the inability to support the moral principles of the school (Leviticus 20:13a; Romans 1:21-27; Matthew 19:4-6; I Corinthians 6:9-20).
While the situation shakes out, the 5-year-old is at home with her parents.
"I love my two moms," she told ABC 10. "I miss my friends. I miss my teachers."
MTV News has reached out to Mt. Erie Christian Academy for comment.