Saturday, November 2, 2013

Backyard Updates: Firing of Tippi McCullough by Mount St. Mary, New Sentence for Former Mount St. Mary Teacher Kelly Ann O'Rourke

As the work week ends and the weekend begins, two updates to stories from my own backyard about which I've blogged previously--the firing of teacher Tippi McCullough by Mount St. Mary Catholic school in Little Rock when she married her partner Barbara Mariani, and the case involving a teacher at the same school, Kelly Ann O'Rourke, who molested a student at the school and was back in court recently on charges that she had violated the terms of her parole. I discuss the first story (and mention the second) here and here, and the second is discussed here and here. Here are the updates:

1. For Arkansas Times, David Koon recently did a story about what happened to Tippi McCullough at Mount St. Mary. Koon reports that McCullough and Mariani have indicated that the school's administration knew of their 14-year committed relationship, and they had hoped the school would not take reprisal when they married.

After the school offered McCullough a choice of being fired or resigning on the day she and Mariani married, she stated in her letter of resignation that the school's action violates the "Mercy Values" by which it claims to function as a school founded and owned by the Sisters of Mercy--in particular, she maintains, it violates the Mercy Value which recognizes "the intrinsic worth and dignity of each person." (Koon states that the school's principal Diane Wolfe defended her decision to fire McCullough when a theologian wrote her to challenge those actions. This is new information to me. For The New Civil Rights Movement, David Badash has reported that Wolfe's statement was issued in response to a former Mount St. Mary student who challenged her specifically on the ground that the school teaches one thing with its Mercy Values, and then does another in the case of gay folks and gay rights.)

Koon also notes that the Human Rights Campaign has held a support rally for McCullough and Mariani, and that HRC president Chad Griffin attended and spoke at the rally, noting the disconnect between what this school has chosen to do in McCullough's case and Pope Francis's insistence that we should refrain from judging those who are gay. Koon also reports that Mariani told the gathering that she and McCullough have lived discreet, private lives, and decided to go public about what Mount St. Mary did to them in the hope that telling their story will make it harder for Catholic schools to continue to treat gay employees this way:

"What we realized is that silence perpetuates inequality," she said, "and until someone rights that silence," it continues to hurt. Mariani said that while they had discussed the possibility of retribution against them for getting legally married, she said they had believed the school would "continue to exercise just application of that moral code, like they had for the past 14 years" toward the couple.

2. Re: the second story involving Mount St. Mary: former teacher Kelly Ann O'Rourke was sentenced on 28 October to 10 years in prison for repeatedly violating her terms of parole by attempting to make contact on multiple occasions with the student she had molested. For SNAP, Barbara Dorris states,

This woman chose to use her position of trust and respect as a teacher to harm a child entrusted to her care. This behavior cannot be tolerated. We applaud the judge for sending a strong statement to anyone who has the privilege of working with children; if you exploit your position for criminal behavior you will be held accountable.

As she notes, the fact that O'Rourke was serving time when she chose to continue trying to make contact with her victim suggests that she may pose a real threat to minors, since she has shown little regard for the judicial system that has sought to deal with her molestation of a minor. 

The photo: our backyard this All Souls day 2013.

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