Carla Hale, beloved Catholic school teacher fired for being gay, reaches settlement with former employer

In April, Carla Hale was fired from her job as a physical education teacher at Bishop Watterson High School, a private Catholic school in Columbus, Ohio for being gay. She was not out to her students, but when her mother died she listed her partner, Julie, as her spouse in the obituary at the advising of her brother. That was enough to have her lose her 19-year employment with Bishop Watterson, who called their relationship "quasi-spousal." It now appears that Ms. Hale and the school have found a "mutually agreed to a resolution of their disagreements."

The issue was originally sparked when an anonymous letter was sent to the school to complain that a lesbian was teaching at Bishop Watterson High School, citing the obituary of her recently deceased mother as evidence. According to the school, obituary amounted to a "public statement" of her relationship. The school informed Carla that she was not fired because she was gay, but because her relationship had been made public. The school's employment policy appeared to be similar to the much derided, failed, and since repealed military policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Students, former and current, have rallied in support of the teacher who was loved by many. Jackson Garrity, a senior at Bishop Watterson organized a Change.org petition to get her reinstated which amassed over 131,000 signatures. Other supporters have started an advocacy group#halestormOhio. The group took action, such as posting videos on YouTube. In addition, a member of the board of Bishop Watterson High School recommended that the school take steps to becoming a safe harbor for gay students. The group asked for further basic changes: that school create a gay and lesbian support group, have books in library about being gay and Catholic, and create a safe space in the school and hold retreats and masses for lesbian and gay students and their friends and families. A number of the school's donors also said that they would no longer donate to the Bishops Annual Appeal, which funds the Diocese of Columbus' programs, until Carla was reinstated.

Meanwhile, the much loved teacher has been working as a substitute teacher in Franklin County and her attorney has stated that "she couldn't be happier about being back in the classroom." Despite an outpouring of ally support locally and nationally, her union abandoned her in her fight for her job and the school superintendent of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus declined to reinstate her, but Ms. Hale and the school have reached an agreement to end the dispute. The terms of the resolution are being kept confidential, but it does state that she will receive acknowledgement of her years of service to Bishop Watterson High School.

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