INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Support continues to pour in for a guidance counselor at Roncalli High School who was placed on leave for being married to a woman. In a statement, the Catholic school has said as role models for students, the personal conduct of every teacher, guidance counselor, administrator and staff member, both at school and away from school, must convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Shelly Fitzgerald said she was suspended as a guidance counselor because of her same-sex marriage. She said she's been in a relationship with this woman for more than 20 years. Her attorney, David Page, said Fitzgerald was banned from campus and cut off from her work email. Fitzgerald has worked at Roncalli High School for 15 years.
"After that, she was heartbroken and stunned. Stunned is the word she uses most often," he said.
Page said her coworkers and the administration knew she was gay and it was not a huge secret. Many, including students, do not agree with the school's decision and feel she should still be able to keep her job.
An online petition has been signed by more than 11,000 people and it asked the high school’s executive board of directors to change a policy they find to be disgraceful and discriminatory. One Roncalli board member, Daniel Parker, actually stepped down from his position this week. He said the decision was personal because Fitzgerald has been his kid's counselor. Parker has been a member of the board for two years.
Parker sent a letter to the school's president on Tuesday. Part of it said:
I’ve always believed that the Roncalli community was strong because of the family members and the wonderful staff that included Shelly. The student body and our recent alumni can be added to that strength. Clearly, we are doing something right when our young students and graduates understand better than some older adults that love is love, commitment is commitment, and marriage is marriage no matter who opens their heart to those wonderful gifts from God.
Archdiocese of Indianapolis said Catholic schools are ministries of the Catholic Church and expectations are clearly defined in school employee contracts so every employee can make an informed decision regarding their employment prior to the start of each program year and before signing the annual contract. Fitzgerald signed a contract.
Page would not give any details about her contract because he said that will be talked about greatly if there is litigation in the future.
"I don’t think the law is clear and I don’t think their position is as clear as they think it is," Page said.
Page said Fitzgerald has not been in contact with the school since Monday. However, he said he had a meeting with the attorney of the Archdiocese on Wednesday. No resolution was reached but Page said they agreed to keep conversations going.