Carla Hale was a physical education teacher at Bishop Watterson High School for 19 years before she was fired. She was fired for being gay. This all occurred after Hale listed her partner’s name in her mother’s obituary published in the local news. The school soon learned of her sexual orientation and fired Hale because her “quasi-spousal relationship” violates church teachings.
According to the Catholic high school officials, all teachers sign an agreement in the employment contracts to uphold the tenets of the Catholic Church. If a teacher were to violate these religious teachings, contracts can be terminated as a result. As a result of this violation, the local teachers union (Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators’ grievance committee) chose not to back Hale’s efforts to be reinstated in the school.
Discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation is considered a misdemeanor in the Columbus Community Relations Commission. Hale is filing a complaint under that city code with the hopes of being reinstated.
This case reminds me of a similar case in the 1970s about a gay male teacher, Joe Acanfora. Eve Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet analyzed this case regarding Acanfora’s double bind (lose-lose) situation. Acanfora was fired when the school district found out that he failed to disclose to the school during his interview that he was gay. However, if he had disclosed his sexual orientation, he would have never been hired for the job. Thus, he was in a double bind and the same can be said about Hale.
Luckily, laws have changed so that such discrimination against employees is illegal in many states. Even though Hale’s employment contract stated otherwise, a court ruling may overturn the school’s decision.
A petition on Change.org has been started on behalf of Hale to reinstate her. And on the side, another petition on Change.org to uphold the school’s decision on firing Hale has also been started. As I’m currently writing this article, the petition to reinstate Hale has 129,122 supporters while the petition to uphold the school’s decision has 715 supporters.
Here’s one quote from the petition to reinstate Hale by 2008 alum, Amanda Lux:
“When I was a student at Bishop Watterson, we were always taught to treat others with dignity and compassion. As an alumni, I still credit Bishop Watterson with shaping me into the person I am today — both morally and ethically. I am deeply saddened to learn that, in spite of what Watterson taught me about respect for all humanity, a longstanding and well-respected faculty member was treated so unfairly. Ms. Hale has always been an excellent coach and teacher. Her sexual orientation and lifestyle choices have no bearing on her capacity to educate her students and should NOT be grounds for termination of employment.
Bishop Watterson has always gone above and beyond to support and care for its students. What message does this decision send to students who may be struggling with their own issues of sexuality? How can students feel comfortable seeking the advice of their teachers if the school has made it clear that it rejects homosexuals?
By signing this petition, it is my hope that both Bishop Watterson High School and the Diocese of Columbus will look deep into their hearts and remember the core values they preach to so many students every day. I hope that those making decisions will remember they are setting an example for their students and for the community, and will choose to act with love and respect in this and all future decisions.”
You can show your support for Hale or the school by signing either petition.
For more social justice related news, follow me on Twitter: @CalebPeng