INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Roncalli High School announced in a weekly newsletter it is offering a new program to students who identify with the LGBT community. It comes after the catholic school placed its guidance counselor on paid leave because of her marriage to a woman.
Shelley Fitzgerald, a longtime counselor at Roncalli High School, was placed on leave after the school says she violated her contract by being married to a woman. Fitzgerald appeared on national television to share her story.
“They told me if it stayed kind of quiet and it didn’t get into the media and I didn’t let anybody know what was going on that I could potentially keep my job for the rest of the year but then they wouldn’t renew my contract the following year,” Fitzgerald said on The Ellen Show.
Three months after she was let go, Roncalli High School's weekly newsletter said it's excited to offer a new program called "Encourage." Here is the announcement on the school's website:
Roncalli High School is excited to offer a new program, Encourage, that promotes a positive environment and safe space for students who experience same-sex attractions and those questioning their sexual identity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that people with same-sex attractions “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (CCC 2358). Using Jesus Christ as our model and the teachings of the Church as our foundation, this group strives to accompany students as they seek “to fulfill God’s will in their lives” (CCC 2358). Meetings in this group involve service projects, team building, brain-breaks, guest speakers, and affirmation activities. This group will meet once a month during the school year and be led by the Assistant Principal for Student Life, Kevin Banich. He will work with and seek guidance from the Chaplain of Roncalli, a teacher from the Theology Department and a member from the Guidance Department.
Supporters of Fitzgerald felt this program is a step in the right direction.
"I think it is very important to support these people especially at a time when they are not feeling very supported in this environment," said Erin Rooney, a junior at Roncalli High School.
Fitzgerald was Rooney's counselor. She supports Fitzgerald and the LGBT community so she was thrilled to hear about this program at her catholic school.
"I was a little concerned at first that it was going to be a form of conversion therapy, but again I think if it is managed correctly that it should be OK," she said.
Her mom Angie Rooney was surprised to hear the announcement but she was willing to give it a chance.
"It’s a wait-and-see game, but what a positive first step," she said. "I mean they could have ignored this issue for the rest of the year and they chose to do something now."
Angie said it's been a tumultuous year for her daughter. She's relieved her daughter's friends will hopefully have a place to go where they feel accepted.
CBS4 reached out to Roncalli High School and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis on Saturday to get a comment on the new program. As of late Saturday evening, we were still waiting to hear back.