Nebraska College Student Expelled for Sexuality, Raises Questions of Identity in College

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by Indira Samuels

Danielle Powell was a semester short of graduating in 2012 when she was expelled from the university she attended for violating university standards. In 2011, she began a lesbian relationship while still registered as a student at Grace University in Nebraska. For those unfamilar with Grace, it's a conservative Christian college in the state that strictly forbids any "sexually immoral behavior" including homosexuality, “prolonged hugs,” and all acts that could be linked to sexuality.

Expecting Powell to hide who she was in spite of Grace's rules is unfair. She had been raised as a conservative Christian and even noted that her relationship was unexpected in saying “No one was more surprised than me… I had been very religious since I was a small child, and that did not fit in with what I thought I believed.”

After her relationship started, Powell sought guidance from her spiritual counselor at the university and even underwent several months of mentoring as what may had been an attempt to keep favor with the school in the face of breaking their code of conduct. Whatever the case, Powell was still expelled from the school and currently has to pay Grace $6,000 in spite of previous scholarships she received as she did not have a chance to finish her out the year.

Until this is paid, Powell also does not have access to her transcripts. On a federal level, there may be legal action that Powell can take as many lawyers are offering to assist her through this matter, but currently the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in Title IV organizations does not protect LGBT students in the realm of education as the act only outlines protecting minorities in terms of race, ethnicity, religion and gender. On top of that Powell signed a document that all Grace University students must agree to that stated that she would coincide with the school code of conduct (as stated briefly above).

But even with her signing a contract and the overshadowing injustice posed by the absence of federal LGBT protection in higher education in this issue aside, is it even fair to expect an 18 year old to know the person that they are going to be throughout the course of college in any case? College offers, at least to some degree, a separation from the world you grew up in and introduces you to a world filled with new experiences to can push you to explore who you really are or have always been as a person, even in a seemingly strict environment like Grace.

I know that if I had to tell you who I was going to be throughout the course of college back when I was 18, I would have guessed wrong about essential every last thing and I’m only 21: my major, the activities I wanted to be a part of, the people I was going to be friends with and yes, even my sexuality.

Even with Christian values, do schools have the right to dictate your identity?

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