By Halie Wingo
Roncalli High School Counselor Shelly Fitzgerald was a guidance counselor at the Catholic high school in Indianapolis for 15 years, before she was placed on administrative leave last month. Fitzgerald, who married a woman in 2014, said she was told she could dissolve her marriage or lose her job, according to the Indy Star on Sept. 4, 2018. Recently, a concerned parent obtained her marriage certificate and showed the school, knowing the contracts the staff sign say that they can not be married to the same gender. The Catholic school brought the issue to the Archdiocese, the Catholic district for which an Archbishop is responsible, and they were the ones who decided she should no longer be employed at the school, according to Roncalli sophomore Jazmyn Lawry.
Lawry spoke on the issue, telling of the support the student body has shown for Fitzgerald and that she was only trying to keep her job because she wanted to be a part of the school.
“There was a contract Mrs. Fitzgerald signed, knowing that in the contract it said that she can’t be married to the same gender. She had hidden her marriage from the Archdiocese and Roncalli so that she could work with us and be a part of the Roncalli community,” Lawry said.
Lawry said that the president of Roncalli was shown Fitzgerald’s marriage certificate and, by the rules of the private Catholic school, had to show the Archdiocese, who promptly handled the issue and asked her to resign.
“Someone showed Mr. Hollowell, the president of Roncalli, her marriage document. He had to report it to the Archdiocese to show them what was going on. The Archdiocese had to address it and they told her that she could end her marriage or she would have to resign or step down from her position,” Lawry said.
Lawry said the school also gave updates on the issue daily and they had people protesting Fitzgerald’s termination.
“Every morning, he would come on the announcements and give an update about everything that was going on. We have protesters on the road going into the school. There were some that seemed threatening and some that were more passive, but it has affected us,” Lawry said.
WCHS Junior Ashlee Streib is friends with a family member of Fitzgerald and said that she is taking legal action towards the school for the issue.
“I am friends with Mrs. Fitzgerald’s niece and she said her aunt has hired a lawyer and is fighting the school,” Streib said.
Streib also is upset with how the school dealt with the situation because she finds it unfair.
“I’m upset about the choice because people deserve to live the life they want to live,” Streib said.
Streib doesn’t agree with the choice the school made because she thinks people should be allowed to live how they want without unfair treatment and Fitzgerald had already been employed by the school for many years.
“I believe Mrs. Fitzgerald should not get fired after serving 15 years at Roncalli,” Streib said.
Fitzgerald was a guest on Ellen Degeneres’ show and spoke about her experience. She stated that she got an email from the president of the school asking her if she could meet with him. She said she was asked who the other person was on her marriage certificate and she told them it was her wife Victoria. He gave her the option to dissolve her marriage, resign or keep it quiet and continue working there for the rest of the year and not renew her contract next year. The school also said that if it became “too loud” in the media, they would terminate her sooner.
The school took care of the issue in the way they thought best and made the decisions based on the contract that was signed. The question most students are still asking though: Was it the right decision to make? Public schools are not allowed to fire teachers for their sexual orientation and WCHS has to abide by these rules as well.