BLOOMFIELD HILLS (WWJ/AP) – A former chemistry teacher at a metro Detroit Catholic high school says she was fired after becoming pregnant in a gay marriage.
Barbara Webb, 33, says she notified her employers at the all-girls Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills in July that she was pregnant. A month later, she was fired.
Webb, who worked at the private school for nine years, says her termination letter didn’t give a reason for her firing. However, her contract with the school apparently prohibits her from being public with anything that is contrary to Catholic doctrine.
In a Facebook post, Webb says she believes she was fired “for no other reason than for being pregnant and getting pregnant outside the Catholic way.”
The school’s president, Sister Lenore Pochelski, confirmed to the Detroit Free Press on Tuesday that Webb’s employment ended Aug. 19, although she declined to comment for confidentiality reasons.
Webb says she declined an offer to resign with health insurance, but without pay or other benefits, through the spring semester.
“I really felt like resigning was a lie; to me, that was willingly leaving,” Webb told the newspaper. “I was kind of compelled to just let people know the truth.”
Webb hasn’t yet decided if she’ll pursue legal action against the school, but said she wanted to stand up for change in the face of injustice.
“My job can’t be saved but the torment that the poor LGBT students at Marian must be feeling (right let’s be real they exist too) the other LGBT staff (again let’s be real people) and those that are silenced by fear can be helped,” Webb wrote in her post. “Speak out against hate wherever you see it.”
Webb said she valued her time at the high school, but felt she had to come forward with what she sees as a human-rights issue.
“This is definitely not a crusade against the school,” Webb said of her decision to go public. “This is so much more than me and Marian. It’s letting people know what type of social injustice is still happening.”
An employment lawyer in Bloomfield Hills, Deborah Gordon, said freedom of religion under the First Amendment could apply if the case went to court.
“Pregnancy discrimination is flat-out illegal,” Gordon said. “There are exemptions for religious institutions. I don’t know if she’s going to fit into one of them here.”
According to their website, Marian has a student body of 520 students from 55 different metro Detroit communities. Classes meet all seven days of the week. Enrollment for one school year costs upwards of $12,000.
The mission of the college prep school “is to ensure, within a Christian environment, an excellent education built on a strong academic curriculum, which will enable young women to value human diversity and live responsible lives of leadership and action based on Gospel values.”
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