COLUMBUS, OH — Students at Bishop Watterson Catholic High School near Columbus, Ohio, have launched a petition on Change.org asking the Diocese of Columbus to rehire Carla Hale, their teacher who was fired after someone complained that a female partner was listed on Hale's mother's obituary.
Hale says she returned to work after attending her mother's funeral to find an anonymous letter alerting the school that a woman's name was listed beside Hale's in the obituary; the personal filing the complaint was "appalled" that Hale was teaching at the school. A few days later, on Holy Thursday, Hale was fired by the Diocese of Columbus.
"To see The Church, which is rooted on love and acceptance, show such intolerance is extremely disheartening," said Hope Vacarro, a senior at Bishop Watterson. "Ms. Hale is a woman who has dedicated her life to the education of children, and she deserves immense respect for that. She is a moral and ethical educator who has done nothing but bring friendship and guidance to Watterson students."
"Ms. Hale was so much more than just a teacher at Watterson, she was a person who embodied all the traits that Watterson tries to instill upon its students from day one," said Zac Simmons, another senior at the school. "Ms. Hale is a role model and an example everyone can follow. She would do anything to help her students and the people around her, and now I wish to return the favor and help her get her job back."
The petition has grown to more than 40,000 signatures. Each signature is delivered via email to the Diocese of Columbus. The contract between the Columbus diocese and the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators allows teachers to be terminated for "immorality" or "serious unethical conduct," but a city ordinance says it's illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on sexual orientation — penalties are up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Hale and her lawyer have filed a grievance with the Columbus Diocese under the terms of her contract.
"It's clear this campaign is resonating with members of the Bishop Watterson community in Ohio and with people across America," said Amanda Kloer, campaigns director for Change.org . "The purpose of Change.org is to give passionate people like these students, who are fighting for the teacher they love, the tools to create change."
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Live signature totals from the students' petition: