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Ohio teacher files grievance, claims she was fired because she is gay

BOB VITALE | Outlook Columbus
Thursday, April 18, 2013
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — A popular Columbus, Ohio, physical education teacher and coach who says she was fired because she is gay, has filed a grievance through her union against the Catholic Diocese of Columbus, according to her attorney.

Carla Hale taught for 19 years at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, but was fired on March 28 — Holy Thursday for Catholics — just one month after church officials received an anonymous letter pointing to a newspaper obituary for Hale’s mother that listed the teacher’s partner as a member of her family.

Carla Hale

In addition to the grievance process through her union, the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators, Hale has the option of filing a complaint with the Columbus Community Relations Commission, a city-sanctioned body that investigates allegations of discrimination.

Although there is no federal law nor any state law in Ohio that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, city ordinances ban such bias in Columbus.

Meanwhile, support for Hale continues to grow.

A Change.org petition started by a Watterson student has topped 15,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon, and Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman posted Hale’s photo on his Facebook page Thursday with the message, “I stand with Carla Hale in her fight to get her job back. No one in Columbus or in the United States should be denied employment because of who they love.”

Neither Bishop Frederick Campbell, Watterson Principal Marian Hutson nor the Catholic Diocese of Columbus has issued any statement. A spokesman said Tuesday that the church doesn’t comment on personnel matters.

But school officials might be forced to address their actions, however.

Officials in the office of City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr., said the process is complaint-driven, though, and would be triggered only if Hale pursues a case.

Hale’s attorney, Thomas Tootle, told Outlook Columbus that is an option, and doesn’t rule out filing suit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

The contract between Hale’s union and the Catholic Diocese of Columbus gives the church the option to terminate contracts “at any time for gross inefficiency or immorality, for serious unethical conduct, or for willful and/or persistent violations of reasonable regulations of the school or the Diocesan Office of Catholic Schools.”

Hale told the Columbus Dispatch she was called to a conference room on March 12, the day she returned to school after her mother’s death, and handed a copy of an anonymous letter pointing out that a newspaper obituary for Hale’s mother included the name “Julie” in parentheses after her own.

She said the subject wasn’t mentioned again until March 28, when she was fired 20 minutes before the end of the school day.

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