Gay Student Takes Suit to Fla. Court After Expulsion

A student's lawsuit alleging he was expelled from his Christian high school after telling a chaplain he is gay is headed for the state's Supreme Court (search).

A divided 4th District Court of Appeal (search) asked the high court Wednesday to decide if the chaplain should have protected Jeffrey Woodard's confidentiality during the 2003 conversation.

Whether Woodard and his mother, Carol Gload, can seek damages from Jupiter Christian School (search) depends on whether the school chaplain in whom he confided can be sued for inflicting emotional distress, according to an opinion written by Judge Melanie May.

The state Supreme Court has never ruled on whether clergy must protect a person's confidentiality, as do attorneys and psychologists, May wrote in Wednesday's ruling.

Woodard, now 20, sued the school for breach of contract after being expelled three days into his senior year.

Woodard claims the chaplain pulled him out of Bible class and asked him in confidence if he was gay.

When Woodard answered "yes," a school official called his mother and told her Woodard could not attend an upcoming school retreat unless he and Gload met with the school to talk about Woodard's sexual orientation, according to the lawsuit.

Gload has said the school told them Woodard could get either counseling for his "problem," voluntarily withdraw from the school or be expelled.

"I didn't think Jeffrey needed therapy," Gload said in 2003. When she told that to school officials, they expelled her son, she said.

School officials said Woodard was expelled for violating school policy when he talked to other students about his sexual orientation.

In 2003 the school issued a statement on its Web site saying homosexuality "is a lifestyle we believe is not in accord with the biblical values we teach our children." The statement went on to say the school thinks homosexuality is "a form of sexual immorality."

Messages left early Thursday for Woodard and his attorney, and the attorney representing the school were not immediately returned.