Second Report That Catholic School Threatened Students Critical of LGBTQ Employee Firings

Elijah Mahan, recent graduate of Roncalli High, at the school’s first football game of the 2018 season

A second report has surfaced against a Catholic high school saying administrators there tried to punish students who criticized its firing of two LGBTQ church workers. This claim comes shortly after the school announced a new policy that critics say aims to silence current students.

Erica Garrity, the mother of Elijah Mahan who recently graduated from Roncalli High School, Indianapolis, has claimed school officials harassed her son and other students who publicly defended Shelly Fitzgerald and Lynn Starkey, former guidance counselors whom the school fired for being in same-gender marriages.

Garrity told the Indianapolis Star that beyond threatening her son and other students with expulsion, Roncalli administrators sought to raise his tuition midway through senior year. Mahan had become involved with student efforts for LGBTQ equality, including carrying a rainbow flag onto the field at the school’s 2018 football home opener. The newspaper reported:

“Then, at the start of the second semester [in spring 2019], Garrity said the school told her she owed an extra $1,500 in tuition before her son could sit for final exams or have his transcripts released to colleges. . .Garrity took the school to small claims court. . .

“A judge in Marion County Small Claims Court ruled in Garrity’s favor last month, agreeing that both parties had consented to a tuition cap of $3,818 for the school year with no other conditions. Roncalli had argued that Mahan’s tuition was only $3,818 if Garrity completed a certain number of volunteer hours, like working at athletic events around the city. . .

“‘I have my suspicions as to why it happened,’ Garrity said. ‘The attitude was completely different from his junior year to his senior year. When you look at what’s changed, why would this attitude change? … The only thing that changed was (Mahan’s) outspoken advocacy.’

“Garrity and the school eventually agreed to a payment plan that would allow Mahan to take his exams and have his transcripts released, pending the court decision. She said the entire second semester felt like a series of battles with the school, between the tuition and the meetings with officials over her son’s advocacy.”

Earlier this month, Dominic Conover, a recent Roncalli graduate openly critical of Roncalli’s treatment of Fitzgerald, claimed that school officials intimidated him into being silent with the alleged threat that they would withhold his diploma.

Officials with Roncalli High and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis did not, according to the Indianapolis Star, “directly address a question about threats of disciplinary action.” But Gina Fleming, superintendent of Catholic schools, confirmed there was a meeting with the students and their parents to “outline expectations” and “help them understand the appropriate forums to address their concerns and have their voices heard.” Fleming denied Garrity’s charge that administrators tried to hike her son’s tuition over his public criticism.

Garrity’s story became public just days after Roncalli published a new school policy that explicitly threatens students who criticize the school with punishment, including expulsion.

For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of the employment disputes in Indianapolis, click here or see recent articles below. For the blog’s coverage of church employment issues generally, click the “Employment” category on the right-hand side of this page. For New Ways Ministry’s resources on church employment and LGBTQ issues here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 20, 2019

4 replies
  1. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    Angelo Roncalli High School, named after Pope John XXIII who threw open the windows of the church and welcomed the fresh air of discussion and new ideas, closes the school’s windows and doors and attempts to shut the mouths of its students. Not a good example.

    Reply
  2. Ray Ortman
    Ray Ortman says:

    Wow. Injustice heaped upon injustice. I’d be more than curious to learn what happens to their enrollment over the next 12 months.

    Reply
  3. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    The Roncolli parents should withhold tuition until these beloved employees are reinstated. These firings are an example of unjust discrimination, which is against Catholic teaching. The students should continue speaking out. Where is the appropriate forum? EVERYWHERE. Who is the appropriate audience? EVERYONE. The archdiocese must stop this despicable discrimination immediately!

    Reply
  4. Evita Perennista
    Evita Perennista says:

    The representatives of the diocese claim, “All schools have the right to set standards for student conduct and consequences for misconduct.” And the school policy reads, “…each student is expected to treat the good name and reputation of other students, school employees, volunteers and the school with dignity and respect and not engage in any activity or conduct, either on campus or off campus, that is in opposition to this guideline…” Fair enough, but the policy goes well beyond this by adding the open-ended conclusion, “…and/or inconsistent with the Catholic Christian principles of the school, as determined by the school in its discretion.”

    So we’re left to guess that that means whatever’s deemed “Catholic” in their infinite wisdom. Their morality clause for faculty and students is pure nonsense. This may be news to them, but you don’t even have to be Catholic to attend a Catholic school. If they’re under the illusion that you do, then whatever it is they’re doing, they’re not running a Catholic school. And if their behavior is anything to go by, then apparently neither do you have to be Catholic to be employed by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis or the rest of their coterie pushing this garbage.

    Are they going to make them eat fish on fridays, too? I mean, that is one of the Church’s commandments (there aren’t that many, only five or six that are properly referred to as such), to observe the days of fasting appointed in the Church. Perhaps they don’t think that’s so important. Well, then maybe it’s not that important for us to go to church every sunday and pay their salary either. Of course I don’t expect them to know these things anymore than they would that gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, which are so called because they’re the roots of mortal sin. No, but they want prayer in public schools and the ten commandments on every lawn.

    By contrast, they think that the Church isn’t there to serve the poor and downtrodden, but to provide banquets for a small clique of Catholic movers and shakers in conservative politics who are advancing an agenda that has precious little, if anything, to do with the Gospel (or traditional conservatism for that matter), characterized by a bourgeois familialism that’s foreign to the Catholic Church’s historically religious understanding of family as found in religious communities; there’s a reason we call them father, mother, sister, brother. But that’s the Church they remember and pine for — the Church of Al Smith dinners. (Mark 12:38-44, Luke 14:12-14) No offense to Dolan, of course. Yet they say we’re the ones who are poorly catechized.

    “If ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? (Matthew 5:47) As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. (Galatians 6:12-13) For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. (Galatians 5:3) For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10) I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.” (Galatians 5:10)

    Reply

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