A Jesuit high school in Chicago is denying allegations it fired a gay teacher because of his sexual orientation, but that statement has not stopped alumni from organizing against the firing. (Bondings 2.0 reported the firing over a week ago .)
In a statement to faculty and staff, administrators at St. Ignatius College Prep said, “While we cannot share details of Matt Tedeschi’s term of employment, it is important for you to know that he was not fired for his sexual orientation.”
However, no reason was given for why he was so abruptly terminated, reported DNA Info.
Tedeschi, who taught religious studies and French, was fired earlier this spring after having been at St. Ignatius for four years. Students who found his online dating profile had harassed him through social media and in the classroom since February 2016. Despite multiple reports, Tedeschi claims the administration did almost nothing to stop the harassment or to discipline the students. Tedeschi responded to the St. Ignatius administrators’ most recent statement:
“‘I was fired for asking the administration to protect me from student harassment leveled against me precisely on the basis of my sexual orientation. . .I may not have been fired solely “for” my sexual orientation, as the school writes, but I certainly was fired “because of” it.'”
Many members of the St. Ignatius community feel similarly. Alumus Christian Johns described Tedeschi to DNA Info as “arguably one of the best rookie teachers at Ignatius.” Johns said further:
“Granted, the details are still murky, it is clear that the administration at Ignatius fails to get ahead of crises that could be handled with professional zest. The administration, community, and students have to do better so that Ignatius remains an incredible place to learn and grow.”
A petition for administrators to better support LGBT people and people of color at the school gained more than 530 signatures. A Facebook group, “SICP alumni in opposition to Tedeschi firing,” now has more than 1,200 members. The organizer of the group, Jessica Schneider, told DNA Info firing someone because of their sexual orientation is inconsistent with the school’s values:
“The school doesn’t seem to be able to have open discussions,” said Schneider. . .”I know that there are certain things that can’t be disclosed, but the reaction [from administrators] isn’t sufficient for the incident.”
Alumus Andrew Rayner wrote a blog post entitled, “On Being in the Closet at St. Ignatius.” He described the atmosphere at the school as “virulent” when it comes to homosexuality, an atmosphere that stymied his own coming out process. On this latest news about Tedeschi’s firing, Rayner commented:
“I do not know all sides of the story to explain why the teacher, who seemed to be well respected by staff, well-liked by students, and was on his way towards tenure, was fired. . .but when the issue was said and done, the students involved received small disciplinary slaps on the wrist. The teacher ended up canned.”
Rayner expressed concern not only for Tedeschi, but “the student like me who is walking the halls of St. Ignatius feeling even less supported and loved than they felt before because of this incident.” He concluded:
“I also understand as a former educator and proud, fully-out gay man the importance of modeling for young people. The failure of the school to model proper behavior in this situation is what I am most concerned about. Modeling can literally save lives. . .
“What kind of modeling is this for young people? For a school whose motto is ‘men and women for others,’ these actions by the students and the response by the school do not seem to uphold these values. As I said, it is totally within the rights of a Catholic school to not condone homosexuality. You can believe whatever you want to believe. But as an educational institution that holds itself to the standard of teaching God’s love, the school is obligated to teach respect for all people, to decry bullying, to promote justice, and to protect its young people, regardless of beliefs or identities. This is a failed teaching moment. Or, at least, the lessons taught were not ones of love.”
If Tedeschi was not fired because he is a gay man, St. Ignatius officials owe the school community and the wider church community a more thorough explanation about the incident.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 2, 2017