Bondings 2.0 reported last week on the firing of Carla Hale, a teacher for 19 years at Bishop Watterson High school, who was terminated after listing a female partner in her mother’s obituary. Now, support continues growing as pressure is placed on administrators at the high school to reinstate Hale.
A petition on change.org created by students at Bishop Watterson had generated nearly 38,000 signatures as of Sunday morning, including current students, alumni, and Hale’s daughter. Thousands on social media have posted about the incident with Carla Hale, including Michael Coleman, the mayor of Columbus, Ohio where the school i located, as reported by Queerty:
“Coleman tweeted his support for Hale, writing, ‘I stand with Carla Hale. No one in Columbus or in the United States should be denied employment because of their choice of who to love.’”
The Columbus Dispatch also reports about less positive pressures placed on Bishop Watterson:
“Hundreds of calls, some of them threatening, have been received at a Roman Catholic high school in Columbus where a gay teacher was recently fired, according to a police report filed this week.
“The report says the calls came from all over the country in the wake of media reports on a teacher’s firing from Bishop Watterson High School.”
Hale condemned any threatening phone calls, advocating greater tolerance all around and has thanked members of the Bishop Watterson community for their support. The teacher also spoke out about the ongoing struggle in an interview with a local Columbus NPR station, WOSU 89.7. She describes the meeting where the high school principal informed her of the diocese’s decision to terminate Hale’s employment:
“Hale said she was in, ‘total shock. Like your legs had just been cut out from under you.’”The letter was from the Columbus Diocese and signed by [Principal Marian] Hutson.
“’I turned to the principal and I said, “Are we talking like immediately? Am I supposed to leave the building?
“And she just, she said, “Yes.”‘”
Of the way in which diocesan officials were notified of Hale’s same-gender relationship through an anonymous letter, she said:
“…she did not discuss her sexual orientation with colleagues. She said only a few close co-workers knew. And for nearly 20 years, there was never a problem.
“Hale called the anonymous letter cowardly.
“‘To use my mom’s obituary, her death, to write this letter. And, honestly, we wouldn’t be in this situation if it wasn’t for her death, nor if my partner’s name was Chris.’”
As momentum grows behind Carla Hale, in Columbus and nationwide, she expresses one simple desire while leaving open other options to take against the diocese for wrongful termination:
“Hale spoke positively of Bishop Watterson, its staff and its students. And she has filed a grievance with the Diocese, asking to get back her job.
“’At this point in time, that’s all I’m hoping for.’
“But if Hale isn’t reinstated, she has other options. She can ask for the city to investigate whether the Diocese violated a city ordinance which protects employees from discrimination including sexual orientation.
“Napoleon Bell, who directs Columbus’ Community Relations Commission, said religious employers are not exempt from the city ordinance.”
For their part, diocesan and Bishop Watterson administrators have remained quiet about the growing pressure placed upon them to act justly towards Carla Hale. One alum of the high school finds a silver lining in this incident, in that it could generate a necessary discussion about LGBT educators who play an integral role in Catholic educational systems. Of this, Hale responds:
“…she does not think the Catholic Church is ready for the conversation [alum Michael] Liggett wants, but she said it has to start somewhere.
“’As most changes take place, it has to be the younger generation stepping up,’ Hale said. ‘And they’ve obviously shown great tolerance and love and support. And so, it’s a step.’”
In just the last month, several stories, available below, have shown the leadership that high school and college students assume for creating inclusive, LGBT-affirming Catholic institutions. New Ways Ministry encourages all to sign the change.org petition in support of Carla Hale, and is encouraged by the youth and young adult activism that is transforming the Catholic Church into a more welcoming place.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
April 18, 2013: “Another Canadian Catholic Teen Speaks Out for Equality“
April 11, 2013: “Gay Teenager on Catholic Policy: ‘Somebody Had to Say Something”