Catholic school counselor Shelly Fitzgerald (left) is being showered by flowers, as students are upset with the threat to her job. Here she poses with her niece and former student Haley Fitzgerald. (Photo courtesy of Haley Fitzgerald.)
A counselor at a Roman Catholic high school in Indianapolis has been put on paid leave following the school’s discovery of her gay marriage — and many current and former students are rallying around her.
In a video posted by IndyStar, high school guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald recalls how the principal and president of Roncalli High School presented her with her marriage certificate and gave her four options: to resign, to dissolve her marriage, to not renew her contract the next year, or to face possible termination.
Shelly Fitzgerald has been a well-liked counselor at Roncalli High School for 15 years. It was not until the school and Archdiocese of Indianapolis discovered she was married to a woman that they suspended her.
Fitzgerald had reportedly kept her private life and relationship of 22 years a secret, knowing the Roman Catholic high school allows employees only to be in marriages involving a man and a woman.
The school’s decision to suspend Fitzgerald has outraged many of the students and community members — some of whom staged a protest at Roncalli High School on Monday.
While some legal experts are saying the Roman Catholic High School is legally allowed to fire a counselor for being in a gay marriage, the question still remains: Should they?
According to many Roncalli High School students and alumni who have taken to Twitter, the answer is no.
What makes it more complicated is that public funding, in the form of taxpayer dollars, is providing this school with millions of dollars through a voucher program in Indiana.
So the school’s decision to suspend a longtime guidance counselor could put all that funding at risk.
And Fitzgerald could face even more consequences after going public with her story and discussing what the school is referring to as a “confidential personnel matter.”
But it seems this has become bigger than just keeping a job. A Facebook group titled “Time To Be A Rebel” has been created in her defense.
And a group of students is apparently running a Twitter account called @fitzsupport, to plan continued action in support of their counselor.
Asked by a local reporter if she thinks she’ll get her job back, Fitzgerald replied, “I don’t have any expectations except to be a catalyst for change and love.”
She may not expect it, but students and alumni who have been inspired by her approach are continuing to speak out.