A Chicago Catholic high school teacher has been fired after being outed as gay by his students.
Matt Tedeschi, a popular religion and French teacher at St. Ignacius College Prep, was harassed by students who found his OkCupid online dating profile and then texted screenshots to other students, DNAinfo reports.
Tedeschi, 31, was not out at the school and had never discussed his sexual orientation in the classroom.
After word spread that he was gay, Tedeschi was ultimately fired. Because he refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement, he was denied his salary for the remainder of the year. He had taught at the Jesuit institution for four years and was slated to be considered for tenure.
Tedeschi’s dating profile, which did not mention his name or occupation, contained no explicit content. It had three photos, including one shirtless shot.
“Never once did I think a high schooler would be on it,” Tedeschi says, noting that other St. Ignatius teachers also have online dating profiles. “Everyone should have the right to a private life.”
Tedeschi says he was subsequently bullied by students in the classroom and on social media. A student who publicly tweeted Tedeschi with threats of exposure received two Saturday detentions.
“In this place that prides itself on being a value-based school and teaches us to care for the vulnerable and marginalized, it’s precisely the same religious basis that allows horrible harassment to take place,” Tedeschi says.
Tedeschi says that administrators told him he was being fired because he showed poor judgment in posting photos online, as well as for unrelated issues, but he believes he was fired because he is gay. “It’s a ’don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, because they are worried about negative fallout,” he says. “I never would have taken this job if I thought this could happen to me.”
St. Ignatius leaders have released a statement saying that Tedeschi was not fired because of his sexual orientation, adding that he “was treated fairly at all times” by the school’s administration.
One of Tedeschi’s former colleagues at St. Ignatius tells DNAinfo that the school has other gay faculty and students, but it’s “kind of hush-hush.”
Tedeschi has written an open letter to the St. Ignatius community and is now exploring his legal options, which may be limited due to certain discriminatory exemptions allowed for religious institutions.