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