Carla D. Hale wants to get back to teaching.

Carla D. Hale wants to get back to teaching.

Many students at Bishop Watterson High School, both current and from years ago, want to see her reinstated to the faculty as well.

One of them, senior Jackson Garrity, created an online petition at the website change.org asking that officials with the Catholic high school "reinstate faculty member Carla Hale and apologize for discriminating against her on the basis of sexuality."

"My classmates and I feel very passionately about this issue," Garrity told Outlook magazine editor Bob Vitale by email. "We agreed that we needed to take a stand as leaders and voice our opinions."

As of late last week, the online petition had been signed by more than 11,000 people.

"The support and the love that present students and alumni have shown has just been overwhelming," Hale said. "I couldn't have imagined that it would have been this tremendous."

In his introduction to the petition, which has zoomed around the Internet like a popular YouTube video, Garrity wrote:

"Discrimination is something that people have fought for generations. The most prominent form of discrimination in today's society is discrimination on the basis of sexuality. Carla Hale, a beloved teacher at Bishop Watterson High School, was fired because of her sexuality. She was a 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. Discrimination and injustice is something that we all have a duty to fight in today's society. It's unfair that someone who cared so much about her students and her job should lose them on the basis of something she cannot even control. 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."

Many who added their signatures also left comments.

"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," Charles Parise of Columbus wrote on the site. "Judging and discriminating against people on the basis of their sexuality is not what God wanted at all."

"When I was a student at Bishop Watterson, we were always taught to treat others with dignity and compassion" Amanda Lux of Springfield, a 2008 BWHS graduate, wrote. "As an alumna, 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."

Another Bishop Watterson senior, Denis McPhillips, turned to daytime talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres for help in getting Hale returned to her physical education post.

"Recently, a beloved physical education teacher, Ms. Carla Hale, was fired after working for 19 years at the Catholic high school I attend based on her sexual orientation," he wrote on the Facebook page of the host of 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show.' "Following the death of Ms. Hale's mother, an obituary was printed in the local newspaper that listed her along with her partner as survivors. Ms. Hale is loved by those who attend Watterson for her compassion to teaching, coaching, and overall being a great role model. Her firing has sparked outrage among students, alumni, parents and staff alike.

"The story has already captured attention at the local news level, and I thought that you, being a tremendous supporter of the LGBT community, would want to know of this injustice and perhaps would wish to sign the petition. I have provided links to the petition and related articles. Thank you for your time, and I hope that we will soon live in a world where sexual orientation does not affect one's right to teach."

DeGeneres famously came out as a lesbian in 1997 while starring in her own situation comedy.

The story of Hale's firing was picked up by the online magazine Salon and MSNBC.com, and also drew comment from an organization based in Washington, D.C.

"The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, is calling on Bishop Watterson High School to do the right thing and not discriminate against LGBT teachers in their employment practices. In March, the school fired 19-year veteran teacher, Carla Hale, after an obituary in a local paper for her mother listed her with a same-sex partner. The city of Columbus includes sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination protections but as a religious school, Bishop Watterson High School is exempt under the law."

"While Bishop Watterson High School may be within its legal rights to dismiss a teacher for being gay, they have a moral duty to treat all people fairly and equally," said Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the HRC Religion and Faith Program. "The majority of Catholics and people of faith believe LGBT people deserve dignity, respect and equal protections under the law."

"The school should reverse their discriminatory stance for the sake of Carla Hale and the students who love her."

Locally, an "equality meeting" held Saturday afternoon, April 20, at Studio 35, organized by Watterson graduate William Klatt, drew more than 100 supporters, who had a chance to speak their minds and share stories about Hale.