Cathy Samford, a 29-year-old former science teacher and volleyball coach at Heritage Christian Academy in Rockwall, Texas, was fired last fall after the school discovered she had become pregnant out of wedlock. Now, Samford is sharing her side of the story, saying she was "totally shocked" by the decision.
In a recent interview with ABC News, Samford said she and her fiance had been planning to get married, though complications forced the wedding to be delayed.
"I'm not just some teacher that went out to a bar and got pregnant and went back to school saying it's okay," Samford said in the interview. "I was in a committed relationship the whole time and probably would have been married if things had gone differently and this would be a non-situation."
After becoming aware of her pregnancy, Samford approached school officials about missing part of the upcoming volleyball season. It was then that, according to Samford, the school responded by telling her she would be terminated.
"I was in shock and devastated and that's when I said, 'If this is the problem, I'm willing, and so is my fiancé, to go ahead and get married,'" Samford told ABC News. "That wasn't the issue. We were going to get married regardless."
Colin Walsh, Samford's attorney, told WFAA-TV that the school's actions were illegal.
"You can't discriminate against someone who's pregnant or has a pregnancy-related medical condition," Walsh told the station. "That is both state and federal law."
But Dr. Ron Taylor, the school's headmaster, defended Samford's firing on the grounds that, as a private Christian school, Heritage Christian Academy expects their teachers to be ministers as well as educators and is not subject to the same laws as public schools.
"I understand some people that would say 'It's a heartless thing to do,'" Taylor told WFAA-TV. "It wasn't easy to do."
Taylor added that part of Samford's job is to a be a "Christian role model" for her students and that her unwed pregnancy violates the morals clause in her contract with the school.
"How's it going to look to a little fourth grade girl that sees she's pregnant and she's not married?" Taylor asked in the interview with WFAA-TV.
Samford and her attorney are now considering legal action against the school as the mother-to-be is faced with financial difficulties ahead, having lost her employee-sponsored health insurance along with her job.
This incident comes in the wake of a similar case involving Jarretta Jamilton, a fourth grade teacher at Southland Christian School in St. Cloud, Fla., who was fired after school officials discovered her child was conceived before she and her husband were married.
After taking legal action, a federal judge ruled against Hamilton, claiming she "failed to prove she was treated differently than other Southland employees who engaged in premarital sex."
Other teachers who have been fired: