BC Catholic school recruits, then fires lesbian teacher

Via the Vancouver Sun:

Lisa Reimer said Wednesday her music classes were cancelled and she was told to work from home marking papers until her one-year temporary employment contract with Little Flower Academy expires in June. She said the effect of the orders, which came after the school apparently received complaints from parents who didn’t like a homosexual instructor teaching their children, amounts to dismissal. “I feel like I’ve been fired with a payout,” she told reporters at a news conference. “All the families have been told I am on a personal leave, which I am not.” She said the school took the action just as she was preparing to return to work after a three-week leave following the birth of her son. But in a statement issued late Wednesday, Celso Boscariol, the chairman of the school’s board of directors, said Reimer “has not been fired, and she remains in the services of LFA until June 30 and will continue to be paid accordingly.”

He said school administration met with Reimer when she wanted to return to work “to discuss projects consistent with the music theory curriculum. The school understood that her proposed role was acceptable and the matter was resolved.”

However, he said he would look into Reimer’s allegations that she was told not to come to the school or have direct contact with any students. B.C. Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said she had only heard of the case through media reports but was concerned.  “I am concerned about what I have heard and I have asked ministry staff to look into this,” she said. “Stepping way back, there are labour laws, human rights laws in British Columbia and they have to be followed. They apply to everyone. The law is the law.”

Reimer told reporters she was recruited by Little Flower Academy last year to take over as a music teacher and choirmaster on a one-year contract while the regular teacher was on maternity leave. At the time, she was on a leave herself from the Vancouver School District, and she will return to the district in September.

Reimer said she signed a contract with Little Flower Academy that included a clause indicating that as a non-Catholic she would not speak out against the Catholic faith or try to influence students with non-Catholic values, something she said she would never do anyway. She said her sexual orientation was never discussed. She said she met with school principal Marcelle DeFreitas and vice-principal Diane Little in January and was told the school doesn’t give parental leave but that she could take up to 15 days sick leave to be with her partner. At the time, they were excited for her future child, she said, but they also warned her that if word got out and parents complained, they “might have to dismiss me.” Reimer said she took sick leave three weeks ago after her partner gave birth to a boy. She said she expected to return to work last Monday, but a few days before that she received an urgent e-mail from DeFreitas saying they had to meet to discuss her future. When she went to the meeting, she was told that parents had complained about the image of a lesbian teacher teaching their daughters, she said.

She said she’s angry about the message the school is sending to students. “I think it tells them it is OK to be bigoted and to be homophobic and that it’s OK to make deals behind closed doors with no witnesses,” she said. “I really care about the girls and am really proud of them and enjoyed working with them.”

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