Students at a Roman Catholic high school in Indiana have come to the defense of a guidance counselor reportedly fearing for her job after administrators discovered she’s in a same-sex marriage.
Shelly Fitzgerald has worked for Roncalli High School in Indianapolis for 15 years, the Indianapolis Star reported Monday. She and her wife married in 2014. They’ve been together for 22 years and have one child.
ABC affiliate WRTV cited a Facebook post written by Fitzgerald and distributed to a select group of parents that outlined her story. In it, she said she’d kept quiet about her relationship during her years at the school. She went on to allege that someone “sought out my marriage certificate” and presented it to school administrators. From there, she said, the certificate was turned it over to the archbishop of Indianapolis and Roncalli Principal Chuck Weisenbach.
Fitzgerald said she met with Weisenbach and the school president, Joseph D. Howell, and they gave her three options: to resign, to “dissolve” her marriage, or to “wait it out and stay quiet and maybe I can make it the rest of the year,” with the knowledge that her contract would not be renewed.
Noting that she has no intention of getting divorced, quitting or “not telling anyone why I have to leave the job I’ve loved so much,” Fitzgerald added: “I ask that you pray for my family, for change in the world, and know I have absolutely loved my job for the past 15 years.”
Roncalli administrators on Sunday responded to Fitzgerald’s claims in a lengthy Facebook post. Calling the situation “a confidential personnel matter,” they nonetheless added: “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.”
“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,” the school’s post added.
Meanwhile, Hollowell confirmed to the Indianapolis Star on Monday that Fitzgerald had been placed on paid administrative leave, but did not comment further.
A Facebook page in support of Fitzgerald was created Sunday and had more than 2,900 members as of Tuesday morning.
Supportive students left flowers and T-shirts on a bench outside of the Roncalli High School campus in solidarity with their guidance counselor Monday.
“At the moment, we have ... a fair amount of LGBTQ students here at this school,” 11th grade student Madison Aldrich told the Indianapolis Star. “I hope that this sends a message that no matter who you are ― race, gender, sexual orientation ― you are welcome at Roncalli.”
Fitzgerald, in a Monday interview with WTHR, thanked students and parents for their support.
“We taught [students] to use their voice,” she said, “and they are.”