COLUMBUS, Ohio — Students at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio, are fighting for a longtime physical education teacher and coach they say was been 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 on Monday 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.”
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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.