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Gay student sues Preston HS

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A respected Throggs Neck Catholic high school is being sued by a family who claims their daughter was kicked out for being gay.

Amanda Acevedo, a Preston High School senior, is back at school for now while a judge reviews the allegations made against the all-girls institution on Schurz Avenue.

Preston officials were aware of Amanda’s orientation two years back when she brought a female date to a school dance. School dean Joseph DeBona saw this and questioned Amanda, now a senior at the school.

“That’s absolutely intrusive,” charged John Acevedo, Amanda’s dad. “He separated them and started asking questions about her sexuality.”

Things came to a head early this year after Amanda got into a fight with another student on Sept. 17, grabbing DeBona’s attention. DeBona quickly expelled Amanda roughly an hour after the fight, while the other student was only suspended, according to the suit.

Acevedo said DeBona’s unilateral decision to remove Amanda violated the school’s policy on presenting the expulsion matter to a four-member panel.

But Acevedo believes DeBona’s actions were largely motivated because he’s homophobic.

“That’s not a reason to throw her out of school,” said Acevedo, who pays $9,000 in tuition each year to keep Amanda in the school.

The family’s attorney, Garfield Hesla, maintains the Catholic school is driven by doctrine rather than compassion.

“We know that as long as she’s there she’s emblematic of everything they don’t support,” said Hesla, who’s also working the case with co-counsel Shaun Reid.

Local legislators Councilman Jimmy Vacca and Sen. Jeff Klein have stepped in, sipmply asking if Preston officials can reconsider the move. But school officials haven’t budged.

A letter posted on the school website defended the school’s actions to expel Amanda while denying “all allegations of discrimination.”

“Preston High School has not and does not engage in unlawful discrimination for any reason,” wrote principal Jane Grendell, “including discrimination based upon one’s sexual orientation.”

Officials have maintained its zero-tolerance stance on fighting, a position “parents must acknowledge, in writing, that they know and understand this rule.”

All the parties will head back to court on Nov. 12th. The suit does not seek monetary damages, but simply wants Amanda restored as a full-time student.

For now, Amanda’s back at school playing catchup with work and college applications.

“This is a nightmare of a senior year for her,” said her father. “This is supposed to be one of the happiest years of her life.”

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383
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