Lauren White had long dreamed of becoming a teacher, and despite not holding a degree in education, it looked like she was about to see that dream come true. Then it was pulled away at the last minutes, because White is engaged to another woman.
She was offered a job as a French teacher at Sacred Heart-Griffin, a Catholic high school in Springfield, Illinois. White, who is herself not a Catholic, tells NewNowNext she went into the interview with nerves, because she “kind of figured that since it was a Catholic school, it wouldn’t be the most inclusive space, obviously.”
She says she approached the interview “more as a fact-finding mission than anything else.”
She was pleasantly surprised when the principal, Kara Rapacz, presented the school as inclusive, including to the LGBTQ community. While she had initially intended to “either come out or drop something in the interview” to reveal her sexual orientation, she decided it wouldn’t be necessary based on what she was being told.
“I now realize that was kind of naive,” she admits.
When White returned to the school to sign her new contract, and she and Rapacz were making small talk, it came up that she was engaged. When Rapacz referred to White’s fiancé as “him,” she corrected the principal, which resulted in Sacred Heart-Griffin pulling the deal off the table.
The school is legally allowed to not hire someone based on their sexual orientation, as a faith-based, private institution.
Sacred Heart-Griffin released a statement saying that while “the interview went very well and the job was offered,” it was rescinded when “it was discovered that the candidate has a fiancé of the same sex.”
“In keeping with Roman Catholic teaching on same-sex marriage, we were unable to complete the hiring process. We recognize the difficulty of this situation and see this as a complex issue,” it added.
“The mission of Sacred Heart-Griffin is to educate, form, love, and support all of our students. This situation does not change our mission.”
White, who works for the local health department connecting immigrants and their families with community resources and support, says that while the school has a gay-straight alliance, she has heard from a number of transgender students who claim they “either had to leave the school willingly or were removed from the school for other reasons, but being trans was the underlying cause.”
She says she has also been informed, since her Facebook post about the situation went viral, that “it’s not just LGBT teachers who are being either not hired or let go, it’s people who live with their significant other before marriage, it’s everything.”
NewNowNext has reached out to the school for comment on these claims and this article will be updated if they respond.
“It’s really too bad that so many good teachers are brought into that school system, and then they don’t have a job a couple of months or a year later because they find out about their living situation. I think that’s absolutely awful, because you’re there to teach kids,” White says.