Bishop Watterson High School students are fighting for a longtime physical education teacher and coach they say was fired by the Catholic Diocese of Columbus because she’s gay.
Carla Hale is liked and respected by students and colleagues, but people close to her and the school say she was terminated after Bishop Watterson and church officials were told that she included her partner, Julie, in her mother’s newspaper obituary.
Students began an online petition yesterday that has been gaining about 100 supporters per hour. It was up to 2,800 by noon today.
The petition calls Hale a beloved teacher “who cared for her students and treated each one with respect.”
“The school, however, did not reciprocate that respect in its treatment of her,” reads the petition, started by Watterson senior Jackson Garrity. “Discrimination and injustice is something that we all have a duty to fight in today’s society. … The school claims its mission is to teach its students about love, acceptance, and tolerance, and yet it did none of this in the way it treated Ms. Hale. That is why we all have to stand up together and let it be known that this decision is unacceptable.”
Garrity said students learned of Hale’s firing this week, although they weren’t told directly by the school. The school didn’t tell faculty either, others said.
“She’s a great lady,” a former colleague said of Hale. “She’s totally dedicated to her students.”
Two people who know others who’ve spoken to Hale told Outlook the details of her termination. Hale’s mother, Jeanne E. Roe of Powell, passed away on Feb. 25, and her obituary appeared in The Columbus Dispatch the next day. Hale’s partner, Julie, was listed among Roe’s survivors. That is what prompted school officials to fire Hale, the source said.
“My classmates and I feel very passionately about this issue,” Garrity told Outlook by email. “We (the senior class) agreed that we needed to take a stand as leaders and voice our opinions.”
Other Watterson students, parents and alumni have voiced their anger at the school as well. Here’s a sampling of comments:
- “Bishop Watterson demands that we all treat each other with equality and respect. I hope they see that their students are standing up for the morally right thing, not to just rebel against the school. Carla Hale is a child of God and equal in his eyes to all of us. Bishop Watterson needs to recognize that.”
- “Ms. Hale was a fantastic PE teacher, she encouraged everyone to be a part of the games and activities we did in class. This made the class more fun for everyone. She was always fair towards me, even in my freshman year when I was rude and disrespectful in her class. … To see the treatment of a woman who has given so much time to the Watterson community as a teacher, coach, and much more is just sickening. Judging and discriminating against people on the basis of their sexuality is not what God wanted at all. … I want Ms. Hale reinstated to the school because regardless of her sexuality (which is no one’s business but her own), she is a great teacher, and a fantastic woman and role model.”
- “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.”
- “My kids go to Bishop Watterson. I want them to see a model of tolerance and love, not discrimination.”
- “As a graduate of Watterson I am deeply disappointed that my former school seems to have lost sight of one of their core principles — to love and respect others. I truly hope Watterson realizes their mistake before teaching students that it is acceptable to judge another person for any reason, let alone for loving someone. Ms. Hale please know that we support you.”
Someone who signed the petition with the name of Hale’s daughter wrote: “Discrimination against someone for their sexuality is wrong. It is not our place to judge someone especially based on these terms. She is an amazing mother, friend, teacher, and all around person. That is how people should see her!”
Hale still is listed on Watterson’s website as head of the school’s health and physical education department.
Bishop Watterson Principal Marian Hutson didn’t respond to Outlook’s request for comment. Diocese spokesman George Jones said it’s church policy not to comment on personnel matters.
It’s the second time this year that Catholic schools in Ohio have fired educators for ties to the LGBT community. In February, Mike Moroski, an assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School in Cincinnati, was fired by the Cincinnati Archiocese after he stated his support for marriage equality on his personal blog.