Teacher: Mistreatment Over Gay Son Caused Depression, Then Dismissal

Ostracism by colleagues at the Christian school caused the teacher anxiety and depression, and then the school failed to renew her contract, she says in a lawsuit.

BY Trudy Ring

July 06 2012 2:58 PM ET

Students at Covenant Christian Academy

A former teacher at a Christian school in Pennsylvania says colleagues ostracized her after her son came out as gay, then unlawfully fired her when the stress affected her mental health.

Sharon Wright is suing Covenant Christian Academy in Harrisburg, claiming it violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by failing to renew her contract, The Patriot-News reports. She taught at the school from 2001 to 2010, when her contract was not picked up.

Wright’s oldest son came out on a social networking website in 2009, when both he and his brother were students at Covenant. The gay son “was first barred from class, then told he would be suspended until he ‘renounced his sin,’ according to her suit,” the newspaper reports. He was eventually able to graduate via an independent study program.

Wright says she and her husband consulted with psychologists and decided they should accept their son for who he is, and they did not believe that being gay was a sin. School officials never told she had to renounce her son’s homosexuality to keep her job, she says, but several coworkers made unsolicited remarks that upset her, such as telling her that the boy was “broken” and she should try to “fix” him.

This “scathing condemnation and blame,” she says in the suit, caused her to become anxious and depressed. When she told administrators about her problems, they suggested a yearlong medical leave, which she says was not necessary, then refused to renew her contract for the 2010-2011 school year. By letting her go instead of making reasonable accommodations for her mental health condition, the school violated the ADA, she says.

Covenant’s attorney says the state of Wright’s health had nothing to do with the handling of her contract. Further explanation of the school’s actions, he says, will be forthcoming in its formal reply to the suit.

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