This story is getting very, very familiar and it’s clear that these lawsuits are happening for a reason.
A prestigious Catholic high school booted a Bronx senior for being gay, the girl claims in a lawsuit.
Amanda Acevedo, 17, says in court papers that a homophobic administrator at Preston HS in Throggs Neck took exception to her bringing a girl as a date to a school dance and embarked on a two-year campaign of discrimination that culminated in her expulsion in September.
“Such a disgraceful act is proof positive of the fact that they got rid of my daughter because of her sexual orientation,” Acevedo’s dad, John, charges in the suit, filed against the private all-girls school in Bronx Supreme Court last month. “No other reason makes sense. Preston High gains nothing by expelling a traumatized gay child — except a sick sense of pleasure at getting rid of a gay child.”
It’s understandable that the girl’s father does not care whether or not this Catholic school was trying to defend centuries of Catholic teachings on sexuality.
However, The Post team doesn’t get the same exemption from asking basic, logical, journalistic questions about the legal (canon law and secular) tensions inside Catholic education circles today. Your GetReligionistas have seen this syndrome before, as shown here, here and here.
What’s the issue here? Freedom of association for starters, as well as religious liberty.
In previous posts on similar topics (and comments from informed readers), it has become clear that:
(a) Some Catholic schools, especially those attempting to recruit large numbers of non-Catholic students, do not ask students and parents to sign “lifestyle” or doctrinal covenants in which they pledge to affirm, or not to publicly oppose, Catholic teachings and traditions.
(b) Some Catholic schools, however, have created covenants of this kind for employees, as well as students and their parents.
(c) This pro-covenant trend may be on the rise, due to a growing awareness among bishops and Catholic educators that religious institutions that do not set clear doctrinal standards — standards for admissions, discipline cases and faculty hiring and firing — are creating a foggy legal environment in which it is easier to file precisely these kinds of lawsuits.
So do the members of the Post team even know that these issues exist?
It appears not. I also seems that the Post editors do not realize that private, religious schools — liberal as well as conservative — have the right to define their own community policies on matters clearly linked to doctrine. Liberals may want pro-gay speech codes. Conservatives may want to affirm centuries of Catholic teachings on sex and marriage. That’s the law.
However, religious educators have to articulate these teachings in public, making sure that parents know what they are getting into when their children enroll. There is a truth-in-advertising issue here.
So, did Preston High School leaders (a) have a covenant and (b) make it clear to Amanda’s parents that this covenant would be taken seriously? These are the kinds of questions that members of the Post team needed to be asking early and often.
Would the Preston leadership have answered?
Amanda was out of school for nearly three weeks before a judge issued a temporary order on Oct. 10 allowing her to return — for now. Preston is fighting to expel Amanda for good, and the case is due back in court Nov. 12.
“It just sucks because the punishment does not fit the crime,” Amanda said. “I wish it never happened. I don’t want to go through this at all.”
The school did not return a request for comment.
Not a good sign.
Of course, it is also possible that state privacy laws may forbid the private school’s leaders from defending their actions in a discipline case of this kind. That’s another question for reporters to ask. That is, if they actually want to cover this story.