Catholic School Fires Lesbian Teacher, but the Students Are Fighting Back April 17, 2013

Catholic School Fires Lesbian Teacher, but the Students Are Fighting Back

It’s one of the truisms of Catholic schools: The students are often more compassionate and wise than the adults who are supposed to lead them.

The latest piece of evidence: Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus Ohio recently fired Physical Education department chair Carla Hale. What did she do that was so perverse, so awful, so deplorable?

Carla Hale

Well, in an obituary for her mother, Carla was listed as a survivor along with her partner Julie.

That’s it.

That irked one parent — who apparently reads obituaries with an anal-retentive bent — who complained to the school. And school officials fired her a couple of weeks after that.

High school senior Jackson Garrity began a petition to reinstate her as a teacher. It won’t change the administrations’ mind, but it’ll sure as hell energize the students and community members against this form of bigotry-wrapped-in-the-name-of-God.

Discrimination is something that people have fought for generations. The most prominent form of discrimination in today’s society is discrimination on the basis of sexuality. Carla Hale, a beloved teacher at Bishop Watterson High School, was fired because of her sexuality. She was a teacher who cared for her students and treated each one with respect. The school, however, did not reciprocate that respect in its treatment of her. Discrimination and injustice is something that we all have a duty to fight in today’s society. It’s unfair that someone who cared so much about her students and her job should lose them on the basis of something she cannot even control. The school claims its mission is to teach its students about love, acceptance, and tolerance, and yet it did none of this in the way it treated Ms. Hale. That is why we all have to stand up together and let it be known that this decision is unacceptable. If we do not fight this issue now, it will happen again, and that is not something we can allow. When we allow injustice to go unnoticed and unpunished, we all are hurt. We have an obligation to Ms. Hale and ourselves to make sure the school hears us and decides to overturn its decision.

Yes to all of that. The petition has nearly 5,000 signatures as I write this, and many are from current and former students (and Hale’s daughter) who can’t believe their school would treat a faculty member with such disrespect. Personally, I’m not surprised — the Church tends to be quicker to fire a loving lesbian teacher than a pedophile priest — but you would hope the backlash teaches the administrators a lesson: The kids aren’t going along with Church-guided bigotry. These kids are going to graduate from that school and leave the Catholic Church for good because of shit like this — and we’re all going to be better off when that happens. (I’ve reached out to Garrity for comment about the petition and its effect and I’ll update this post if I hear back from him.)

I also love the fact that the Catholic archdiocese of Columbus refuses to comment — because that means all the soundbytes are coming from students who are on Hale’s side:

The school is referring all questions regarding Hale’s termination to the archdiocese of Columbus.

The archdiocese claims it’s a personnel matter and refuses to comment.

“I can understand their opinion on homosexuality when it comes to that issue, but we’re seeing a woman reprimanded for this but you don’t see any reprimand when a teacher gets divorced which the Catholic Church is against. You don’t see them asking in their private life use birth control or one of those heightened matters” says Mike Liggett, one of Hale’s supporters. Liggett is a Watterson alumni who is now a student at The Ohio State University.

“She was a woman of great integrity I only had her for one year at Watterson but was involved with her in other activities, she had the most integrity of staff that worked there, she treated students justly and fairly,” he said.

Just. Fair. Compassionate. None of those words will ever be associated with the Catholic Church for the students who knew Ms. Hale. They’ll have a different word on their minds: Hypocrites.

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