Dozens of students, alumni and supporters rallied in front of Marian High School in suburban Detroit this morning to protest the firing of chemistry teacher Barb Webb. Webb is gay, and says she was fired after informing administrators at the Catholic high school she was pregnant.
Webb taught chemistry at Marian for nine years. She also coached volleyball and soccer. She says administrators felt her “non-traditional” pregnancy ran afoul of a morality clause that allows personnel to be fired for “lifestyle or actions directly contradictory to the Catholic faith.”
School officials have confirmed Webb's termination, but have not commented further.
But the supporters who turned out at today’s demonstration say it’s Marian administrators who are violating the school’s tenets.
"We are actually a pro-life school, which is supporting all babies, supporting all forms of life,” said Marian senior Brigid Johnson. “And to fire a pregnant mother does not seem to be supporting life, or anyone's life."
Johnson says she hopes school administrators will feel pressured to talk to students about what’s happened. “Lower classmen … don’t know what’s happening right now just because they’re new, and … no one’s talking about it. So I hope we can bring it to light and teach these younger students that we are accepting and we are loving and you’re safe here.”
Webb’s former students say the message to gay and lesbian students isn’t the only problem they have with the decision to fire her. They say the school has lost someone who inspired students, and was an excellent educator.
“She’s one of the best teachers at Marian,” said senior Kara Holinski, who had Webb for honors and AP chemistry. “I was devastated.”
Holinski says she hopes the outcry over Webb’s firing spurs conversation between Marian administrators and the rest of the school community.
“I know that it’s hard for administration in these decisions with splits in the Catholic church,” Holinski said. “But I was really disappointed, because it’s supposed to be a haven for everyone. And I was especially disappointed for the current lesbian students that go to Marian, the idea that you’re not welcome.”
Webb herself attended the demonstration. She said she wanted to express her gratitude for the outpouring of support.
“This has really blossomed into not being just about me,” said Webb, “but being about the current students and the past students, and them loving their school and wanting it be successful and change.”