Gay Teacher Harassed by Students Fired by Jesuit High School

A Catholic high school in Chicago has fired a gay teacher after students outed and harassed him for over a year.

extralarge
Matt Tedeschi

Matt Tedeschi taught religious studies and French at St. Ignatius College Prep, a Jesuit institution. Having taught for four years, he was up for tenure next year. But trouble began in February 2016 when a student discovered his profile on an online dating website. DNA Info reported:

“After discovering the dating profile, the St. Ignatius student texted screenshots of Tedeschi’s profile to several other St. Ignatius students, and it spread across campus.

” ‘He “outed” me to a bunch of students. He knew that he was making fun of me and insulting me,’ Tedeschi said. ‘He wanted to embarrass me.’ “

Tedeschi said he never expected students to find him on the website, which is for people age eighteen and older and which is used by other staff at St. Ignatius. He told DNA Info, “Everyone should have the right to a private life.”

Students continued to harass Tedeschi for over a year. One student tweeted against him sixteen times. The tweets include one that said, “Let’s not forget I have screenshots that can end you,” a reference to the screenshots of the teacher’s dating profile, one of which was included in the tweet. All of this created what Tedeschi described as “a horrible environment,” especially given the aforementioned tweet which he considers “public blackmail.”

Unfortunately, school administrators offered little support for Tedeschi. He informed them multiple times about students finding his dating profile and about their continued harassment. Just one student received two detentions for tweeting against Tedeschi. Principal Brianna Latko did little to stop what Tedeschi called a “culture of harassment.” He explained:

” ‘[School officials] were just watching it play out. . .I was having anxiety attacks before I went to class. It just completely undermined my authority as a teacher and made me feel small. … This unnecessarily pitted me against my students, which never should have been the case.’ “

This March, Tedeschi was informed that St. Ignatius would not be renewing his contract for the 2017-2018 school year. According to DNA Info:

“The school gave him the opportunity to finish out the school year, but after he discussed his departure with a colleague, the school called him to say that his employment was being terminated immediately. In exchange for the rest of his salary he would have earned over the semester, school administrators urged him to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but Tedeschi declined, he said.

“Tedeschi said he was told he was being fired because he showed poor judgment posting photos online and didn’t stop the classroom conversation involving the sensitive information. He said he was also told he was negative and undermined authority — although administrators declined to elaborate to him on these charges or provide further details in writing.”

Administrators will not comment on the firing or surrounding events. Spokesperson Ryan Bergin said confidentiality precluded any comment, but that Tedeschi was “treated fairly” and that school officials “wish him all the best.”

Though his sexual orientation was not explicitly referenced when he was fired, Tedeschi said the firing is really about him being forcibly outed by students as a gay man, his decision to seek an end to the harassment, and the school’s attempt to cover up an embarrassing incident. A colleague agreed that it was not Matt being gay which was the problem, but that his public outing violated the “hush-hush” attitude towards gay faculty and students and was “creating too much trouble.”

Tedeschi has released an open letter (see end of linked article) to the school community, in which he expressed gratitude for the school community. He is publicly telling his story of firing because “only by speaking truthfully and openly can our institution become a better version of itself.” He is now considering his legal options.

This firing is a tremendous loss. Students have lost a teacher who by all accounts was gifted and enthusiastic. Tedeschi was not supported by the administration against harrassment. St. Ignatius administrators’ decision to fire him is troubling for one more reason. It sends the message to offending students and the wider community that homophobia is implicitly acceptable because, in this case, it was the victim who was punished, not the harassers.

 —Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 19, 2017

 

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11 thoughts on “Gay Teacher Harassed by Students Fired by Jesuit High School

  1. Friends May 19, 2017 / 4:17 am

    Absolutely outrageous. He needs to sue the school for the explicit sexual harassment directed against him — and the students who harassed him need to be disciplined with either expulsion or suspension, thus at least causing them to repeat the year. And the fact that it’s happening at a Jesuit school is totally off the charts. Doesn’t Fr. James Martin — as one of the most prominent Jesuit scholars in the country — have some standing to intervene with the Jesuit administrators of the school, perhaps through contacting the local Provincial and urging him to intervene with the school management?

  2. Tim MacGeorge May 19, 2017 / 5:58 am

    While litigation is usually not my first response for, in this situation I hope he sues. And I hope he brings separate suits against the students who harasses him. The fact that the administration did not stop this is very troubling, especially at a Jesuit school where one would hope there’s more tolerance and acceptance.

  3. Thomas Ellison May 19, 2017 / 6:22 am

    It seems that St. Ignatius Prep had an opportunity to teach these students about how to conduct oneself as a young Christian man or woman. They missed the chance to teach their students that is it wrong to bully, to intimidate or to threaten.They failed to stand up for the teacher , Mr. Tedeschi, who deserved his privacy and dignity. This mean spiritedness, especially among the young, is disheartening . But the worst culprit here is the school administration that allowed this to unfold without taking corrective measures.

  4. pjnugent May 19, 2017 / 6:37 am

    What a shame! I would have expected more from St. Ignatius, a Jesuit school.

  5. Tom Bower May 19, 2017 / 8:43 am

    It seems bullying at Catholic schools is considered acceptable behavior whether one is a student or a teacher. If publicly funded vouchers are to be offered to Catholic schools (as the Trump administration wants) then this firing of LGBT teachers should be forbidden as it is at public schools. The teacher is welcome to come to Washington DC schools where LGBT teachers are celebrated. Again shame on the Church and its schools.

  6. Don Siegal May 19, 2017 / 8:48 am

    This story has many complexities; there are multiple examples of indiscretion, poor judgement, and lack of good faith.

    After much discernment, I believe the real losers in this scenario are the harassing students. The message to them was that bulling of disliked minorities is okay. That concept is clearly not a value of Catholic social teaching.

    “One student tweeted against him sixteen times. The tweets include one that said, ‘Let’s not forget I have screenshots that can end you…’ Just one student received two detentions for tweeting against Tedeschi.”

    The problem with punishing disciplines are that no real lessons are learned. And, in this story, only one of the perpetrators was punished. Rather, disciplines that involve restorative justice are a much more effective teaching mode. For example in this case, the perpetrators of the harassing bulling could have been required to perform community service for an organization that works with LGBT children.

  7. Patrick Gallagher May 19, 2017 / 12:11 pm

    This is deplorable and just one more indication of the Church being disrespectful to the LBGTQ members of the community. This is immoral!

  8. Loretta May 19, 2017 / 3:54 pm

    I’m pretty sure he has a sexual harassment claim against the school for not addressing the harassment by students. This potential lawsuit can stand in its own merits, i.e., his sexual orientation is a non-issue. I believe the legal definition of harassment is an environment that is hostile for the person affecting his ability to work in a safe environment. I hope he has a good lawyer and the money to pay for him/her.

  9. Kevin Welbes Godin May 23, 2017 / 5:32 am

    See how they love one another?

  10. SICP Insider July 27, 2017 / 6:41 pm

    This school only cares about money and not about teaching values. There are many problems here that are much worse than a gay teacher, but the administration refuses to deal with them in a transparent way that could help the students learn to be more accepting. It is such a joke.

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