Letter from Sister Laura Reicks, RSM, to Parents of Students at Mercy H.S., San Francisco

May 11, 2016

Dear Parents,

Because you have entrusted your daughter’s education to Mercy High School, San Francisco, I am writing to you on behalf of the Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community.  As you are aware the Sisters of Mercy founded Mercy High School and continues to sponsor it.

When a teacher informed the School’s administrators of a decision to identify as a transgender man, we collaborated with the Board Chair Diane Lawrence and a team of key administrators while we studied how to respond in a manner consistent with Mercy and Gospel values and your School’s Catholic Identity. We prayed for guidance. We also consulted trusted advisors as we applied these principles to this circumstance.

This afternoon, we informed students, faculty and staff about our resolve to support the dignity of each person—regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identification.

Gabriel Stein-Bodenheimer, English Department chair and teacher, has asked to continue employment at Mercy High School. While we regard personnel matters as private, this situation required a departure from that policy.

Because some students and parents, faculty and staff may appreciate having assistance with processing their views regarding the teacher, who identifies as a transgender man, we have arranged for counselors to be available for you this week at the School. On Thursday, May 12, counselors will be available for parents, faculty and staff between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. at the school.  There will be an optional informal meeting with the administrative team and me for parents between 6 and 7:30 p.m.at Rist Hall.

We are grateful to you for your consideration and proud of how the Mercy High School faith community demonstrates its strong commitment to Mercy and Gospel values—respect for human rights and dignity, compassion for others and the courage to act—as well as its Catholic Identity.

We also believe the Sisters of Mercy’s statement of Catholic Identity for our secondary schools underscores the importance of quality relationships for everyone associated with the School. And, we strive to witness to mercy when we honor the dignity of each person in a welcoming culture that pursues integrity of word and deed.


Sister Laura Reicks, RSM