Proposal to block state funding from Roncalli over counselor controversy fails

Posted: 5:41 PM, Feb 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-15 09:55:12-05

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana State Representative and Roncalli High School alumnus said he is ashamed of his former school for the way it’s treated a guidance counselor, so he tried to block public money from going to it.

Rep. Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis, introduced an amendment Thursday to a charter school bill that would have stated that private schools, like Roncalli, could not discriminate against staff members because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

If the schools did discriminate, the state could take away the funding for vouchers for schools.

Roncalli has put counselor Shelly Fitzgerald on indefinite leave after she said somebody found her marriage certificate and gave it to the school. The certificate shows she is married to a woman.

Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, argued against the bill. One of his arguments was based on the contract she signed when beginning employment at Roncalli. Forestal responded by saying the contract is unconstitutional on its face.

“This is a question that I think we all need to ask ourselves,” Wesco said. “Is it discriminatory for Christian congregations to live out their sincerely held moral beliefs that they have held for thousands of years?”

The discussion even got a little heated on the House floor, leading Speaker Brian Bosma to interrupt and say to Forestal, “Let’s let each other finish our sentences, all right?”

Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, voted in favor of Forestal’s amendment.

“What is the message to our children?” Delaney said. “That some teachers are better than others because of who they sleep with? None of their dang business who they’re sleeping with.”

Forestal said he worked with the Indiana Department of Education in October 2018 to work on the amendment to House Bill 1641.

Roncalli has received more than $6 million in state funding as part of the voucher program, he said.

Fitzgerald and a second guidance counselor have filed discrimination complaints against the school with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the Indiana House Democrats.

Forestal’s proposal failed in the Indiana House of Representatives on a mostly party-line vote, 32-63. Rep. Sean Eberhart of Shelbyville was the only Republican to vote in favor of the amendment.