When Bishop Watterson High School teacher Carla Hale returned to work last month after her mother's death, administrators at the Catholic school in Clintonville confronted her with a letter. An anonymous parent had written to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, appalled that Hale had listed her female partner's name in an obituary. Within weeks, Hale said, she was fired because she is in a gay relationship.
When Bishop Watterson High School teacher Carla Hale returned to work last month after her mother’s death, administrators at the Catholic school in Clintonville confronted her with a letter.
An anonymous parent had written to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, appalled that Hale had listed her female partner’s name in an obituary.
Within weeks, Hale said, she was fired because she is in a gay relationship.
Students and other supporters recently caught wind of the firing, and on Monday, a petition was initiated on change.org to seek Hale’s reinstatement. It had gained about 4,000 signatures by yesterday afternoon.
“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,” the petition says.
Hale said yesterday that she has been humbled and overwhelmed by the support.
“It’s amazing that they’ve come together and rallied around this situation,” she said. “I’m in awe of them.”
According to a contract between the Columbus diocese and the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators, teachers can be terminated for “immorality” or “serious unethical conduct.” George Jones, a spokesman for the diocese, had no comment yesterday, saying personnel matters are confidential.
Hale, a physical-education teacher who taught at Watterson for 19 years, said she has filed a grievance under the terms of the contract, seeking her job back. Her attorney, Thomas Tootle, said they are exploring other legal options.
Hale, a practicing Methodist, said she also hopes the reaction to her dismissal spurs Catholic leaders to reconsider their stance on gay relationships.
The Catholic Church considers sex between members of the same gender harmful and wrong but also urges kindness, compassion and sensitivity toward people with same-sex attractions.
Students said it was known or suspected that Hale was gay, but she did not discuss her lifestyle with students or espouse same-sex issues.
Lindsey Perkins of Dublin, a 2001 Watterson graduate, called Hale a “wonderful teacher and amazing role model” whom Watterson should be proud to have on staff.
“It’s just a very poignant time for something like this to happen, and hopefully for people to start realizing that we need to practice acceptance and humility to all people,” she said.
Peter Clark of Powell, a 2011 Watterson graduate, said Hale was a compassionate, understanding teacher who was fired for something that “has nothing to do with education.”
“It’s a disgusting display of hypocrisy by the education system that I was once so proud of,” said Clark, a religious-studies major at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.
Ian James, co-founder of the FreedomOhio movement that supports same-sex marriage rights, expressed disappointment in Hale’s firing and concern that her privacy had been violated.
“But for the fact that she is in a committed relationship and it’s in her mother’s obit, no one would know,” James said. “It seems so inherently wrong and callous ... to say, ‘In addition to losing your mother, you lose your career.’??”