Now Reading
Roncalli guidance counselor files second discrimination charge

Roncalli guidance counselor files second discrimination charge

A closeup of counselor Shelly Fitzgerald.

A guidance counselor who was suspended from a Catholic high school for being in a same-sex relationship has filed an additional discrimination charge.

Shelly Fitzgerald claims that Roncalli High School took ‘adverse action’ against her father in order to stop her from pursuing her case further.

Fitzgerald was placed on indefinite leave from Roncalli after school officials discovered she was married to a woman in July last year.

The school claimed that being in a same-sex marriage, the guidance counselor was in breach of her contract which states that Roncalli employees must abide by Catholic teachings on marriage which only recognize marriages ‘between a man and a woman’.

Fitzgerald filed her initial discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on 7 January, Fox 59 reports.

Her case gained significant media attention last year, and saw large numbers of Roncalli students and residents coming out in support of Fitzgerald.

‘An effort to punish and dissuade her’

Lawyers for the former Roncalli guidance counselor claim that: ‘the Archdiocese and Roncalli High School took adverse action against her father, Pat Fitzgerald, in an effort to punish and dissuade her from pursuing her action any further.’

Fitzgerald says that the school told her father he would no longer be able to serve as a volunteer at Roncalli Senior Retreats.

Pat Fitzgerald had worked as a leader, mentor, and speaker at the retreats for over 26-years.

‘In banning Pat Fitzgerald from participating as a volunteer at the Senior Retreats, Roncalli and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis took a “materially adverse” action in retaliation against a person within Shelly Fitzgerald’s “zone of interests,”‘ the discrimination charge reads.

The charge also says that Mr. Fitzgerald had publically protested in support of his daughter while holding a sign reading: ‘PLEASE TREAT MY DAUGHTER SHELLY KINDLY.’

In response, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis released a statement reading: ‘Senior retreats are designed to be free of distractions to allow students to focus on their relationship with God.

‘Due to the continuing attention surrounding his daughter’s suspension as a Roncalli guidance counselor after she violated her employment contract and his own participation in public protests over Catholic Church teaching, Mr. Fitzgerald was told that he would not be asked to work at this year’s retreats.’

The statement also expressed gratitude to Mr. Fitzgerald for his years of contributions and said he was still able to attend public school events and masses.

National attention 

Fitzgerald’s case made headlines last July after she claims she was placed on indefinite paid leave and asked to resign after her employers learned she was married to a woman.

At the time, Fitzgerald had worked at the school for 15-years. She and her partner married in 2014. They have been together for 22 years, and have one child.

Despite coming under the media spotlight, Roncalli stood by their decision and argued it was a contractual dispute and not discriminatory.

Fitzgerald received an outpouring of support from many of Roncalli’s – both current and former – students and their parents.

A group of Roncalli students called on their Archbishop to change school policy on same-sex marriage.

Fitzgerald’s case became even more high-profile after she appeared on The Ellen Show to talk about her experience.

Following the backlash, Roncalli announced that they would introduce a program for students who ‘identify with the LGBTI community’ in November last year.

The school said that the LGBTI-focussed program, called Encourage, is designed to promote ‘a positive environment and safe space for students who experience same-sex attractions and those questioning their sexual identity’.