Lesbian school president forced to resign by Roman Catholic Church for speaking against Prop 8
Posted on November 22, 2008
Filed Under Uncategorized
A young casualty of Prop 8
Robin McGehee was a dedicated parent at St. Helen’s Catholic School in Fresno, Calif. Even before the Mississippi transplant enrolled her son, Sebastian, in the pre-K program last year, she volunteered at the school because it was right in her neighborhood. She helped St. Helen’s secure their first email address and Web site and worked with students on public speaking since she teaches communications at the local College of the Sequoias.
When McGehee enrolled her son, she, of course, became even more dedicated and generous. She helped with lunch duty, in the classroom, at holiday-themed parties. For the school’s annual dinner-auction fund-raiser, she purchased two tables ($250 each) for her guests and bought several items at the live and silent auctions. And she helped Sebastian win first place in the walk-a-thon. He raised $1,100, while the second-place student brought in $400.
“She was a highly involved parent who not only donated her own time, but money as well,” says Tiffany Rodriguez, whose four children attended school with Sebastian.
When the president of the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO), Letty Baldwin, decided to return to work and give up her post, she asked McGehee to become the new president. The principal, Dr. Toni Amodio, phoned McGehee and encouraged her to accept–and McGehee did in May 2008.
But McGehee didn’t last in the position long because on November 7 the school requested that McGehee resign.
McGehee was involved in the “No on Proposition 8″ campaign. Yes, McGehee is an LGBT parent. Soon after the California Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal, on June 17, 2008, she married her longtime partner Kathy Adams. Together, they have two children 5-year-old Sebastian and 2-year-old Jackson. Also, two fathers, William “Aj” Kruth and Aaron Olson, are a part of the family.
McGehee is the Central Valley program coordinator for the Gay-Straight Alliance Network and she attended many “No on Proposition 8″ rallies in Fresno. She was interviewed on television a few times, and she invited the Rev. Geoffrey Farrow to speak at an anti-Proposition 8 rally before the November 4 election. Farrow was relieved of his duties at a northeast Fresno Parish after he told worshippers that he opposed Proposition 8.
Was the school aware of McGehee’s sexuality before her public involvement with the Prop 8 campaign?
Yes, McGehee says before she and Adams even decided to enroll Sebastian at St. Helen’s they arranged a sit-down meeting with Amodio.
“We were very upfront and never hid the fact that we were a two-dad, two-mom family,” McGehee says. “We explained that we’re a nontraditional family and we wanted to make sure the school was comfortable with that and that they would support us being involved with the school.”
McGehee was open about her sexuality at school but she never advertised it. She wasn’t wearing “No on Prop 8″ buttons around school. Even before the election, she was active in the Fresno Gay-Straight Alliance Network and no one at the school ever objected.
The school told McGehee that they wanted her to resign because she spoke at a candlelight vigil (video of event below) for the “No on Prop 8″ efforts that had been defeated. Father Salvador Gonzalez, Jr., told her that because of her visibility at the vigil, which was seen in direct opposition to the Catholic church’s position on Prop 8, she was being forced to resign. McGehee was not allowed to attend the PTO meeting planned for the following night and the school decided to close the meeting to all parents, allowing no questions about what was happening or why. Only three representatives of the PTO were present and they were only told that McGehee was no longer president and that they would be holding nominations and elections for PTO positions. PTO vice president Tiffany Rodriguez was one of those in attendance, and she stepped down from her post because the school asked McGehee to resign.
“I was shocked,” says McGehee, who is a person of faith and is a member of a Methodist church in Fresno. “Our family absolutely loved the school and our son was happy there. St. Helen’s is a phenomenal school and we really liked the fact that the school calls itself ‘The School of Love,’ and all along it had seemed like a loving, caring, accepting place.”
McGehee says that the principal asked her to keep Sebastian at the school but she and Kathy decided to pull him out. “I could not be the type of parent to drop my kid off and not be involved with his school and I could not believe that the school would be satisfied with that type of parenting,” McGehee says.
Many parents at St. Helen’s disagree with how the school and diocese handled the situation.
“Robin is a peacemaker and she would never want conflict to fall upon the school,” says Rodriguez. “If the parish priest had spoken with her and provided a rational/logical argument, maybe the two could’ve come to some alternative agreement.”
“This situation reflects poorly on our school and the families who attend,” says Felicia Camarillo whose son was in Sebastian’s class. “I realize that there are families there who feel differently but I think it could have been handled better if only someone had tried to talk to Robin about whatever concerns they had.”
Principal Amodio declined to comment for the article and directed calls to Deacon Jesse Avila, a spokesperson for the Fresno diocese. When asked if the situation could have been handled better, Avila responded “I don’t want to answer that because I think it involves a level of second guessing and that’s not fair to any of the parties involved.”
But Avila did say, “All Catholic schools have policies and all parents are shown rules and regulations that parents are expected to abide by. Robin probably received a handbook from the school that outlined the church’s beliefs. And when she signed a contract to enroll her son in the school she would have agreed to not do anything to impede the teachings of the Catholic church.” More o fLesbian school president forced to resign
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