Devin Bryant had attended Covenant Christian Academy in Colleyville since prekindergarten. Four days before the start of his senior year, he and his family say he was expelled for being gay.
His mother, Connie Bryant, said new headmaster Tony Jeffrey told her he was “doing what Jesus Christ would want me to do.” She also said the headmaster offered her parents’ counseling to help her “direct her child well” because her son had “chosen the devil’s ways.”
Jeffrey declined to comment. He issued a statement from the school citing an enrollment document that parents or guardians sign each year in which they agree to abide by the school’s religious and behavioral standards, including matters of sexuality.
The Bryants are considering a lawsuit, and legal experts say a reasonable case could be made that the school violated Title IX discrimination protections.
Devin Bryant, 18, said he’s speaking out not to criticize the school, but to call it to a higher standard and to prevent other students from being expelled.
“I’m not going against the school,” he said. “I’m just calling it to a standard that I think they can meet because I’ve seen it be met through the teachers and through the community.”
School administrators approached the Bryants in August, when Devin Bryant submitted a design for his senior parking space that included “gay” as one of the adjectives he uses to describe himself. He said he came out as gay in October 2019 in an Instagram post.
In an Aug. 6 meeting, the new head of the rhetoric school for grades nine through 12, David Johnson, reminded Devin that the school did not condone his sexuality and that he would be expelled if he were known to be in a relationship in or out of school, Connie Bryant said.
Devin said he was also told that he needed to be less vocal about being gay and change the parking spot design.
Johnson did not return a request for comment.
Connie Bryant said Jeffrey, the headmaster who started Aug. 3, called two days after the meeting and told her Devin Bryant was expelled. Jeffrey said if he had been present at the meeting, he would have immediately dismissed him, Connie Bryant said.
The statement Jeffrey released cited a “biblical principle” that sexuality is allowed only between a married man and woman. It notes that “prohibited moral misconduct includes maintaining a lifestyle not consistent with applicable biblical standards.”
Devin Bryant’s parents had signed the document for this school year, as they had every year since he was in pre-K, Connie Bryant said.
The school’s parent-student handbook also states that sexuality that does not adhere to the school’s “biblical standards” is grounds for dismissal.
Joanna L. Grossman, professor of law and chair in Women and the Law at Southern Methodist University, said the statement of belief the parents signed would be irrelevant in a Title IX case.
“The handbook/code of conduct that the parents signed is irrelevant because prospective waivers of discrimination protections are invalid,” she said in an email.
A recent Supreme Court ruling, Bostock vs. Clayton County, determined that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also applies to workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Grossman said courts could interpret Title IX, which protects against sex-based discrimination in schools, to include sexual orientation as well.
“It’s fair to say that [Devin Bryant] potentially could bring a case for discrimination under Title IX,” she said. “Although he is not certain to prevail.”
Grossman said a lawyer would have to prove that Covenant Christian is subject to Title IX regulations, which it could be if it accepts federal funding. The school received a federal loan this year under the Paycheck Protection Program.
Grossman said that though there’s no precedent for PPP loans, it would “make sense” that a court would consider it federal funding and therefore make the school subject to Title IX.
“The standard is very low,” she said. “A college could have a single student with a Pell Grant and be covered by Title IX because of it.”
Connie Bryant said the family has spoken with lawyers about a potential suit partly because they’re concerned what happened to her son could happen to other students who are gay. They had to “scramble” to get him enrolled in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, she said.
She chose Covenant because of its Christian faith, but she said “what they did to him is not Christ-like.”
Devin Bryant is a “model student” who had good grades, won awards and was involved in school activities, his mother said. A previous headmaster and several of his former teachers declined to comment.
In late August, about 20 or 30 people protested outside of the academy to show their support for Devin, said Benta Bryant, his older sister and a graduate of the school.
Devin Bryant said he fears for other students who, if in his situation, would associate the school’s rejection with Christ’s rejection and not be able to reconcile it with their spirituality.
“I see this newfound sense of rejection through the administration, which kind of makes me link that sense of rejection to Christ himself,” he said. “I’m just scared about the queer students in the school who might not necessarily be in place spiritually where they could take that kind of rejection.”