New Catholic School Policies Threaten LGBT Students with Expulsion

dolr14There’s not much of the Catholic Catechism’s call for “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” toward LGBT people in Arkansas’ Catholic schools’ new policies which enforce the idea that LGBT youth should remain closeted and quiet.

Directives about LGBT topics are part of changes made this year to the Catholic Schools Policy Manual for the Diocese of Little Rock, which covers the entire state of Arkansas. Regarding sexual orientation, the Manual says:

“Students may not advocate, celebrate, or express same-sex attraction in such a way as to cause confusion or distraction in the context of Catholic school classes, activities, or events. When discussing homosexuality or homosexual inclinations, the use of the term ‘same-sex attraction’ is preferred, as it is a more appropriate description in accordance with the truths of Catholic faith and morals.”

In a section titled “Gender Dysphoria (Transgenderism),” the Manual said students should conduct themselves “in a manner consistent with their biological sex.” Schools will treat students similarly when it comes to restroom use, uniforms, school dances, and more. The Manual continued:

“If a student’s expression of gender, sexual identity, or sexuality should cause confusion or disruption at the school, or if it should mislead others, cause scandal, or have the potential for causing scandal, then the matter will first be discussed with the student and his/her parents. If the issue is not resolved to the satisfaction of the school, whose primary goal must always be to uphold Catholic truths and principles, then the student may be dismissed from the school, after the parents are first given the opportunity to withdraw the student from the school.”

The Manual states that, even if alumni procure legal name changes, any documents will be issued in the following way, “Original Name, n.k.a. New Legal Name” (“n.k.a.” stands for “now known as”) These policies will affect over 6,700 students in the diocese’s 27 Catholic schools, reported THV 11.

The diocese is defending these policies by saying they adhere to church teaching and preserve Catholic identity, but students, alumni, and parents disagree. Katy Simmons, a parent of a student at Catholic High School for Boys, Little Rock, said the Manual “does not convey the message I want my son to learn.” A current student, who remained anonymous, described the Manual as “non-Christ-like and discriminatory” and said the diocese should be “much more merciful about this.”

Recent graduate Tyler Gibbons, a gay student who was part of the first same-gender couple welcomed to Catholic High School for Boys’ prom, said the school was “where [LGBT peers] felt safe” to find who they are and what they seek in life. But that is no longer the case because there is now “fear of being reprimanded by the diocese.”

Sarah Vestal, another alumna of Catholic High School for Boys, told THV 11 she believes that the diocese’s directives are partly responding to her, as she is the school’s first transgender graduate:

” ‘I came out and came back for my 40th high school reunion last year.  So, they had to face me for the first time.’ . . . Vestal said she and Bishop Taylor had ideas about which bathroom she should be allowed to use.  She said Taylor also will not allow her to have a copy of her diploma with her new name. . .Vestal and others said they have spoken to Taylor directly, and he has refused to remove the addendum.”

Tippi McCullough, who was fired in 2013 from Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock because she married her wife, said that if the diocese does not “want to bring scandal against your school, then don’t do things that discriminate against children.”

Some Catholic schools have instituted policies which restrict LGBT youth, such as banning same-gender prom dates or using biological sex in official documents. A Catholic high school in Rhode Island even attempted to ban transgender students, though that decision was withdrawn after alumni protested.

But the Arkansas policies seem wholly different in scope and intensity. The Manual explicitly eliminates almost every support that might be offered to LGBT students, and then goes further to stifle students’ expression. Threatening expulsion for students who even “have the potential for causing scandal” is pastorally-insensitive and damaging to student’s development.

These policies were clearly not written by people with expertise in education, adolescent development, LGBT issues, or even church teaching. Admonitions to only use “same-sex attraction” contradicts the pope, who has used the word “gay” when speaking about homosexuality. These policies may be enforcing a set of values, but those values are not Catholic.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

10 thoughts on “New Catholic School Policies Threaten LGBT Students with Expulsion

  1. John Hilgeman September 9, 2016 / 2:14 am

    “Confusion or distraction…” “Confusion or disruption…” Don’t let the students get out of line. Don’t let them feel good about who they really are, or demand that they be treated with real respect. Cause otherwise, they will cause confusion, distraction, disruption. Forget about what’s good and healthy for LGBT students and for their peers. They don’t really matter. Don’t want any troublemakers in the schools.

    If anyone is confused, or causing distraction or disruption or real harm, it is those who formulated, enacted and will be enforcing these policies based, not on what’s good for the LGBT students and their peers, but on some uninformed, party line doctrines.

  2. amagjuka September 9, 2016 / 8:02 am

    It will confuse or distract people to treat LGBT people with respect, and will maintain Catholic principles to discriminate without any push back? Can Catholics of conscience stand by and let this happen? NO.

  3. Paula Mattras September 9, 2016 / 8:13 am

    Is Pope Francis being apprised of what is happening in some of our Catholic schools? “Causing confusion” for whom? It appears to me that the law of the land is quite clear to most. “Confusion” arises when each individual realizes his/her own identity and is told that it isn’t so. If it is “confusion” the bishop wishes to avoid, then it is reality that must be accepted. Praying for enlightenment.

  4. Frank Linsalato September 9, 2016 / 8:52 am

    AS ONE WHO ATTENDS MASS AND RECEIVES COMMUNION DAILY AND IS VERY INVOLVED IN CHURCH LIFE I SAY SHAME SHAME SHAME ON THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF THIS ARCHDIOCESE/DIOCESE. THIS IS NOT WHAT JESUS WOULD DO. THESE SAME LEADERS CLOSE AN EYE AND OVERLOOK AND DON’T RESPOND TO REAL ISSUES WHICH HAVE CAUSED SO MUCH SCANDAL WITHIN OUR CHURCH FROM SEXUAL ABUSE TO IMPROPER USE OF CHURCH FINANCES AND YET THEY HAVE PRECIOUS TIME TO ADDRESS THE ISSUE OF LGBT STUDENTS RATHER THAN TEACH AS JESUS WOULD TEACH. THEY SHOULD TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT SEMINARY TRAINING. THE PREACHING IS POOR, THEY ARE NOT PREPARED TO BE LEADERS OR PASTORS. THEY ARE ORDAINED BETWEEN 27-32 AND YET THEY ARE NOT MATURE. WHEN I WAS THEIR AGE I WAS ALREADY IN A LEADERSHIP ROLE, WORKING HARD AND TAKING ON MANY RESPONSIBILITIES. OUR BISHOPS MUST ACT LIKE LEADERS. I AM OLDER THAN MOST OF THEM AND YET IN SPITE OF THEM I REMAIN FAITHFUL TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH WHICH I LOVE.

  5. Thomas September 9, 2016 / 9:14 am

    Just think of the psychic and physical energy poured into such positions. The Church would be better served by using that same energy to be welcoming, repentant , and embracing. As the saying goes : Everything we do is motivated by love or by fear. Be not afraid.

  6. Tom Bower September 9, 2016 / 10:02 am

    Ok, it seems we have some confusion between the right and left hand of the church. One says anything that would indicate that you can be LGBT and Catholic would be a scandal (talk about a loaded word that brings back memories of molesting altar boys and denying it, but I digress) and the other that says LGBT individuals should be respected the same way as all of God’s children. This question should be presented to the Papal Nuncio to the US or whichever of the red hats that is trying to be the spokesman for the Church in the US at the moment (Dolan, Wuerl, Burke) so it can be clarified. The answer needs to be made clear none of this back and forth. The bishops clam to speak truth so they need to say where they stand. From what I read they stand against what the Pope and official Vatican documents say. It sounds like the bishops have claimed to be in schism so which is it?

  7. Jim McCrea September 9, 2016 / 12:24 pm

    Until and unless the be a substantial replacement of the current crop of bishops none of this nonsense is going to change. Even then what one pope initiates the next one can cancel.

    Same old, same old.

  8. miriamtf September 9, 2016 / 11:34 pm

    I’m with you, Bob. If there were enough students with gender identity variation or orientation variation, they could have a separate Catholic Christian school operated by themselves, a la homeschooling, which would be scandalous. Is that their only option?

  9. Wilhelm Wonka September 10, 2016 / 3:54 am

    This is cultural tyranny.

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