The relationship that a teacher has the opportunity to form with his or her students is truly one of a kind; a bond formed as the result of dedicated educators giving over their careers, professional and often part of their personal lives to mentor and guide generations of young people. It has been said that a great teacher informs but an exceptional teacher inspires. For their unparalleled inspiration and support, a thank you often pales in comparison to the gifts that we receive. Once in a great while, however, a small window of opportunity to show immense kindness and gratitude to those who have given endless hours to their students presents itself and the most inspired pupils take note. This week, members of the Bishop Watterson High School student body offered the ultimate thank you to their beloved physical education teacher as they rallied support to protest the administrations decision to fire her for being gay.
Bishop Watterson High School, an educational institution that prides itself on teaching its students love, acceptance and tolerance, acted with grave hypocrisy last week when they fired long-time physical education teacher Carla Hale. After 19 years of service, this committed educator was forced out of the gym for what the school board cited as “immoral behavior.” When we dig a little deeper, however, we learn that what the leaders of this school consider immoral is the fact that Hale committed her life to a woman; the immoral behavior was being gay.
Sadly, Hale’s mother recently passed away, her obituary appearing in the local paper. With these words, the school and members of the community became knowledgeable of the fact that their beloved faculty member was a lesbian, her partner’s name being cited as part of the family. Upon returning to the school that preaches love, Hale would feel anything but warmth. Rather than sympathy for her mother’s passing, she was offered discrimination and termination after an anonymous parent wrote a letter to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus expressing that she was appalled that Hale’s partner’s name was listed in her mother’s obituary.
It is hard to imagine that this is still the world we live in. I am personally appalled that people are still appalled with other’s choices in who they love. While my blood pressure boils at the incredibly hypocritical, intolerant, heartless behavior of the faculty and parents at Bishop Watterson, the students have taken the high road; they have proven that many among us, including younger generations, have evolved into kinder human beings that are accepting of one another. The BWHS students have looked past all the anger and focused on their opportunity to right a wrong, offer immense kindness in honor of a teacher that has given them so much.
Upon learning of the events that had taken place, senior Zac Simmons jumped at the chance to support his teacher, quickly garnering support from classmates. Within days, members of the BWHS student body could be found protesting the school board’s decision in front of the Diocese, hoisting signs with inclusive messages of “Come Together”, “Honk For Hale” and “We Are All Children of God.” In addition, a petition to reinstate Hale was launched on change.org, garnering nearly 116,000 signatures to date. When asked about the campaign and why supporting Hale was so important, Simmons expressed that he just knew it was the right thing to do, answering, “Miss Hale was a great teacher at Bishop Watterson, she was a good friend of mine and she loved all of her students. She would always be there for us and I just want to be there for her.”
Fellow senior Grant Stover further solidified what a wonderful mentor and role model Hale has been when he was asked what the goal for the protests were and responded with, “To see her get her job back would be the number one goal. We just want her to know that we support her and we’re always behind her.” It is clear that the unique bond formed with an inspiring teacher breeds loyalty, kindness and the desire for positive social change.
In the last few days, former students of Hale’s have come forward to inform the public what a “wonderful teacher” and “amazing role model” she was. She has been described as compassionate and understanding by graduates who have also made it a point to announce the embarrassment they feel in regards to their alma mater’s actions. Support for Hale continues to poor in from young adults whose lives she deeply touched, moving us to further understand unfortunate and unnecessary actions of the school board.
People argue that hate and intolerance are taught, learned behaviors from role models. In many cases I believe that to be true. In this case, I applaud the students at Bishop Watterson for understanding the difference between right and wrong even though the “right” that they have vowed to stand up for goes against the “right” that their leaders have tried to instill. When a group of young people take it upon themselves to fight for human rights against a singular institution’s outdated moral codes, we all must have faith that our society is headed in the direction of acceptance.
The kindness that came from Miss Hale’s students after injustice had been served up by the school board is heartwarming. It is in these moments that we must put our anger over intolerance aside and express appreciation to those people committed to making a difference; admiration and thanks to Carla Hale for being the type of educator who inspires her students to make a difference in the world and well-deserved recognition and praise to the teenagers who offered kindness in the face of institutionalized hate. The world could use more of you all.
Feature Image via Fox 28 Columbus.