INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Controversy is building after a Roncalli High School guidance counselor says she’s losing her job because the school discovered she’s married to a woman.
The south side school issued a statement on Facebook late Sunday night after Shelly Fitzgerald’s status came to light. The school issued the statement in response to supporters of Fitzgerald, who were critical of Roncalli’s treatment of her.
In a Facebook post, Fitzgerald said she’s been with Roncalli for 15 years and has had the same partner for 22 years. She wrote that she’s had to hide that relationship for years. Someone found out, however, and alerted school administrators, who gave her the option to resign, “dissolve” her marriage or wait it out until the end of the school year.
The school said her contract would not be renewed for next year if she chose the last option and added that she could be fired if circumstances warranted, Fitzgerald wrote. She has hired an attorney.
“The leadership of Roncalli High School has been asked to reply to public concerns regarding Ms. Fitzgerald’s employment status. Ms. Fitzgerald is employed by the school. Roncalli does not discuss specific details of school personnel matters,” the school said in a statement.
“As role models for students, the personal conduct of every teacher, guidance counselor and administrator and staff member, both at school and away from school, must convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church,” the post continued.
Expectations of staff members are clearly outlined in the school’s contracts, the district said.
“These expectations are clearly defined in school employee contracts and ministerial job descriptions 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. When the expectations of a contract are not being met, the employee and the school will attempt to reach a resolution so that the contractual requirements are fulfilled.”
Roncalli’s post has more than 650 comments and 120 shares since being posted late Sunday night.
On Monday, students were released from class early so they could take part in an afternoon discussion forum at the school. Junior, Madison Aldrich, said she came away from the forum feeling encouraged that Roncalli officials would take their comments into account when deciding how to move forward.
“A lot of our administrative team was able to see that and see just how big of an impact she really truly made,” Aldrich said. “And I think they’re going to really try and help push her to be able to stay.”
“She just really loves what she does and she really cares about the people that she takes care of,” she said.
Attorney, Stephanie Hahn, who specializes in employee/employer legal matters, expects the situation to be resolved outside a courtroom.
“More often than not, we’re able to mediate matters, settle matters out of court,” Hahn said. “And really, I think court is not something that anybody wants to do, in particular employees.”
“I can’t tell you what will happen here,” she said. “But I can tell you that I think the law is on the counselor’s side, and public opinion is on the counselor’s side.”