Catholic School Expels Elementary School Student Over Parents’ Pro-LGBTQ+ Stance

St. John LaLande Catholic School, Blue Spring, Missouri

An outstanding student at a Missouri Catholic school was expelled after his parents spoke out against recent LGBTQ-negative actions being carried out there.

Hollee and Paul Muller, parents of Will Muller, an incoming sixth-grader at St. John LaLande Catholic School, Blue Springs, voiced multiple objections to recent changes carried out by the new pastor, Fr. Sean McCaffery. These included removing books from the library that featured LGBTQ+ characters, banning the language app Duolingo for its translations of the words “gay” and “lesbian,” and banning the use of news source CNN 10.

Hollee explained her objections to these changes by telling the Kansas City Star: “I don’t think being blatantly homophobic is a teaching of the Catholic Church.”

As a result of the Mullers’ repeated objections, the couple’s youngest son, Will, was expelled, despite his record of high grades and good behavior. A letter from the principal, Susan Martin, gave the following explanation for Will’s expulsion:

“[Paul and Holle Muller] have stated both verbally and in writing you do not agree with nor do you support the teachings of the Catholic Church. After prayerful consideration and discussion among our school administration it is obvious we no longer have a partnership with you, since the values of your family are not in alignment with those of our school. Therefore, the school administration has made the decision to disenroll your child from our school.”

Other parents, who commented anonymously for fear of being similarly penalized, expressed shock at the decision. “Their whole life was that church,” one parent said. The Mullers were said to be one of the most devout and involved families at the school, volunteering as coaches and in other capacities and attending Mass every week. The family also has a long history with the school: Paul and his 15 siblings were students there, and Hollee was vice president of the school’s advisory board. Other parents were surprised that a family with such an extensive history and proven dedication to the school and parish would be viewed as not aligning with its values.

Parents at St. John LaLande are now grappling with the question of whether the school reflects their own values. One parent, who is not Catholic, worries for her child’s future at the school. Others who are single parents or are divorced face similar questions because of the school’s stance of penalizing parents for their pro-LGBTQ+ views while exhibiting grace and acceptance for other families who do not perfectly align with church teachings on marriage and family.

A spokeswoman for the diocese issued the following statement:

“Every family who enrolls a student in our diocesan Catholic schools signs a Family-School Covenant agreeing to understand and support the moral and social doctrine of the Catholic Church and to know and support the school rules…When a family challenges Catholic teaching and curriculum decisions through sustained complaints to the school and diocesan administration, irreconcilable differences can arise. In these situations, it is in the best interest of the family and the school to separate.”

Given the breadth and depth of Catholic moral and social doctrine, as well as the diversity of Catholic thought, it is difficult for parents to know for certain what differences may be deemed irreconcilable. By expelling Will Muller for his parents’ outspokenness, leaders of St. John LaLande have shut down opportunities for the kinds of dialogue necessary for building more inclusive communities, and the leaders have left other parents fearful of expressing their own beliefs.

As for Hollee Muller, she does not regret speaking up. “I just keep telling myself though if it helps one LGBTQ kid or parent or friend be seen or heard or valued,” Muller stated, “then I have done what is right.”

—Phoebe Carstens (they/them), September 8, 2023

9 replies
  1. Robert Takac
    Robert Takac says:

    What message does this expulsion send to our brothers and sisters, both inside and outside of our church? A message that I do not wish to be associated with

    What happened to love and inclusion? Oh, wait…… we have different opinions on some issues – get rid of them. Who are you to judge? Just look inside of our church and see how closely our values are aligned.

    What a weak justification to profoundly shape a child’s life by expelling them through no fault of their own.

    This is a shameful and cowardly act perpetrated by some of our ignorant brothers and sisters.

    What would Jesus Christ do?

    Try being an instrument of love – not exclusion based on your own ignorance and fear.

  2. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    I wonder if a student whose parents expressed white supremacist views would also be disenrolled. How about views on abortion or contraception? It appears that being supportive of LGBT persons brings a special condemnation. Pope Francis is right about some elements of the American Catholic Church.

  3. Lynn hensler
    Lynn hensler says:

    God Bless this courageous family. This school is loosing sight of the the true teachings of Jesus and the 7 Principles of Catholic Social Teachings. So heart breaking for all of these children and families. 🙏🏽♥️🙏🏽💙

  4. Cheryl A Rogers
    Cheryl A Rogers says:

    thank you, Muller’s. God bless your courage amongst hate. You allowed yourself to walk in the shoes of a true Christian. Thank you for ‘doing unto others’ and daring to walk a mile in my shoes too! May more people follow your example.

  5. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    This is painful to read for the student, the parents, our church and our beloved LGBT family members and friends. Punishing a child for his parents faithful example of activism and speaking out may have potentially one of two outcomes: resenting the parents for how this makes him feel ostracized or emboldened to the same kind of commitment to loving justice. One thing for sure, his/her
    parents are faithful to the Gospel “ to love one another as I have loved you.”

  6. Héctor Dessavre
    Héctor Dessavre says:

    Freedom of expression? United States, the country of freedom? Does the Catholic school mentioned live the social doctrine of the church well? That Catholic school, if it expresses something contrary to the teaching of Pope Francis, would it accept excommunication (expelled from the church)?

  7. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    It strikes me that there are two ways of interpreting this passage:
    “Blest are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of slander against you because of me.”

    One meaning is “when you are persecuted for being my follower.” The other meaning is “when they use me as an excuse for persecuting you.”

    The passage continues:
    “Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven; they persecuted the prophets before you in the very same way.” (It was the religious institution that persecuted the prophets.)

    Perhaps it is best for the child to not be exposed to the kind of “Catholic” teaching the school wants to give its students. However, with the laws recently passed in the State of Missouri, I am not sure a public school would be any less discriminatory.

    I am amused however at the school’s attempts to ban Duolingo. (I have been using the app for well over two years to study Spanish. One of the things I like about it is that it does have gay characters.) And the school’s banning of CNN (no mention of MSNBC). They might ban them in the school, but they can’t ban them in the home.

    This all sounds like a rightwing attack on “woke” – an attempt to keep students unaware of the larger world, and to keep parents from awakening their child and the school to the reality outside its doors and the reality simmering beneath the surface of its building.

    I applaud the parents for standing up to the parish and the school against the attempts to marginalize and silence those the parish and school find objectionable.

  8. Maria Fleming
    Maria Fleming says:

    I am sad for St. John LaLande Catholic School and the Mullers who represent the best of us – loving, other-centered, inclusive, participatory community. They have a beautiful legacy that brought solidity and creativity to that Catholic school. That school and parish are the poorer for their exclusion; St. John’s is at odds with Pope Francis’ call for full inclusion and pastoral responses to our siblings on the margins.The Mullers are wise and godly people and must follow their conscience even though the consequences are really hurtful for their family. I am so so sad so many pastors in our Church believe ideology is more important than loving relationships. (And interesting what teachings they choose to follow and which to ignore.)


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