Minn. Catholic School Teacher Allegedly Fired After Coming Out
Officials from a Catholic school in Minnesota allegedly fired a teacher after she came out to her coworkers, the Minnesota Post reports.
In an interview with the publication, Kristen Ostendorf, an English and religion teacher at Totino-Grace High School (located in Fridley, Minn., which is about 9 miles north of Minneapolis), says school officials asked her to resign from her job after she told her coworkers she is gay in August. When she refused to resign, Ostendorf alleges she was fired.
"I wasn’t given a reason. I asked. As far as I can surmise, the rule I broke was saying out loud that I am in a relationship with a woman," the teacher told the Post. "It is OK in the church to be gay, though one would really not say that aloud."
She says she came out on Aug. 21 during a staff workshop event.
"I found myself trying to buy time while I tried to figure out how I could encourage others to ’make their mark’ if I was willing to be part of a community where I was required to hide and compromise and deny who I am," Ostendorf said. She added that she received support from her colleagues when she told them: "I’m gay, I’m in a relationship with a woman, and I’m happy."
CBS Minnesota reports that school officials from Tontino-Grace confirmed that Ostendorf, who has taught at the high school for 18 years, is no longer working at the school but did not explain why. Additionally, Ostendorf released a statement via OutFront Minnesota regarding her firing:
"I can confirm that I am no longer employed by Totino-Grace. I am profoundly sad to have to leave a job I have loved for more than eighteen years in a community that was like family to me," the teacher said.
Ostendor’s firing comes two months after Bill Hudson, a teacher at Totino-Grace High School, resigned from the Catholic school after announcing to his coworkers that he was gay. In a press release, Hudson said, "I love the Totino-Grace community, however, I need to be truthful about my life," and called the decision to leave "heartbreaking and painful" but said it was also "freeing to be open about the most important thing in my life." He added that after 20 years of service to the church he can now live an "authentic life" for his two children and partner of 18 years.
In a similar incident earlier this year, officials from a Catholic school in Southern California allegedly fired Ken Bencomo, a gay teacher less than two weeks after he married his partner.
"Their reasoning was that he had gotten married and it was in the papers. The school’s position was that it violated its teachings," Patrick McGarrigle, Bencomo’s attorney, said.
In April, an Ohio Catholic school booted a gay physical education teacher after an anonymous person sent the teacher’s employers a copy of her mother’s obituary, which mentions the teacher has a same-sex partner. In August, the Associated Press reported Carla Hale would not be getting her job back as part of a settlement reached with the Dioceses of Columbus.