New Jersey Cheerleader Is Suing Her Parents for Not Paying Her College Tuition

In one of the most sensational courtroom dramas in recent American history, a teenage cheerleader tried to sue her parents for refusing to pay her college tuition. Unfortunately for her, a New Jersey family court judge ruled on Tuesday that the parents are not obligated to do anything of the sort. In fact, all of 18-year-old Rachel Canning’s requests were denied – weekly allowance, high school and college tuition, living expenses and her attorney’s fee.

It isn’t for lack of money – Rachel’s parents, Sean and Elizabeth, have put aside a college fund for her. But they’ve taken the extreme step of withholding those funds because of her bad behavior. “We’re heartbroken, but what do you do when a child says, ‘I don’t want your rules but I want everything under the sun and you to pay for it?’” said Sean Canning.

According to the parents, Rachel has always been a troublesome child. She routinely gets into trouble and refuses to follow simple rules like doing chores and keeping a curfew. She also bullies her sister and has been suspended from school twice so far. But when she refused to stop seeing her boyfriend, who they think is a bad influence on her, it was the last straw. They gave her only two options – either dump him or get out. Rachel chose the latter.


Photo: CBS video caption

She is now living with her best friend, Jaime Inglesino. Jamie’s father, John, happens to be an attorney and he seems to have encouraged her to go to court. In fact, John appointed a lawyer and is also funding the lawsuit because he wants Rachel to have a great future. The hearing took place on 4 March in Morristown, New Jersey. The lawsuit presented before Judge Peter Bogaard included a range of requests – paying off an outstanding amount of $5,306 towards her private school tuition, bearing her current living and transportation expenses, legal fees of $12,597, and a commitment to provide her with the existing college fund.

Rachel’s lawyer, Tanya Helfand, claimed that the teenager was denied her college money and was booted from home. Even in the court papers, Rachel has alleged that her parents abandoned her the moment she turned 18 (on 1 November) and refused to pay for her education in spite of all her acceptance letters from various colleges. But the parents have a very different story to tell.


Photo: Facebook

“We love our child and miss her,” said Sean, a retired police chief. He insisted that Rachel voluntarily left home last October. “This is terrible. It’s killing me and my wife. We have a child we want home. We’re not Draconian and now we’re getting hauled into court. She’s demanding that we pay her bills but she doesn’t want to live at home and she’s saying, ‘I don’t want to live under your rules.’”

Sean also said he has reason to believe that Rachel is being ‘enabled’ by ‘well-intentioned but ill-informed’ people like the Inglesinos. He thinks they’re butting in and inappropriately influencing his daughter. “I know Rachel is a) a good kid, b) an incredibly rebellious teen, and she’s getting some terrible information. Living in our house there’s rules. There’s minor chores. There’s curfews – when I say curfew, it’s usually after 11 o’clock at night.”


Photo: Facebook

In fact, Sean said he isn’t even refusing to pay for college. “I reject the whole question on that – the whole premise. We have a college fund that’s available to her – there’s no doubt about that. But it’s the equivalent of going shopping at a high-end store and sending somebody the bill,” he said. Rachel, who has a $20,000 scholarship wants to go to University of Vermont, which is a private college.

So far, it sounds like the parents do have a genuine case on their side. But this is where things get really weird – Rachel’s school, teachers and all her friends are against Sean and Elizabeth. Included in the court papers is a letter from Rachel’s English teacher, Kathleen Smith. She wrote that she witnessed an unsettling encounter between the Rachel and Elizabeth in October. Smith even heard the mother call her daughter a name and say that she didn’t want to speak to Rachel again.

In reply to these allegations, Sean said that a representative for child protective services, who visited the family for three hours last fall, found nothing unusual. The officer determined that Rachel was spoiled and discontinued the investigation.


Rachel doesn’t seem to have spoken much on the issue, except for this one statement: “My parents have rationalized their actions by blaming me for not following their rules. They stopped paying my high school tuition to punish the school and me and have redirected my college fund, indicating their refusal to afford me an education as punishment.”

Well, it looks like both parties have valid arguments on their side. It’s hard to tell who’s right and who’s wrong, but I do hope they are able to sort out their differences and become a happy family once again.

Sources: CBS New York, Buzzfeed

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