By AJ Trager
BLOOMFIELD HILLS – Two weeks after she was let go, Michigan residents held a second protest Sunday outside Marian High School for the termination of Chemistry teacher Barb Webb.
Marian High School, an all-girls private school in Bloomfield Hills, fired Webb for what she claims is getting pregnant by non-traditional methods. The mother to be is 16 weeks along and approached the administration with the news before any signs of pregnancy would occur, per the school’s teacher contract on “public display.” Shortly after speaking with the school, she was fired.
Webb and her partner, Kristen Lasecki, have been together for five and a half years. They got married in Windsor in 2012 and earlier this year made official plans to have a child together.
“Marian was unwilling to offer me any type of leave, and of course they were not willing to grant me the same right that half a dozen other teachers are enjoying this year while starting their families. In fact, Marian’s options to me, after 9 years of dedication including league winning coaching, 4.0 averages in AP chemistry scores, PD for the school based on my personal best practices and dozens of students and family testimonials is 1) resign or 2) we will terminate you,” Webb said in a Facebook post shortly after her termination.
The school offered her $4k worth of health insurance on the terms of her resignation and silence with no paychecks or other benefits. The second Sunday protest was held on Sept. 14 with a record attendance of 120 community members, Marian alumni and former Marian staff. Standing out front of the High School, lining Lasher road, the group held signs that said “I Stand With Barb Webb,” “Mary’s pregnancy was non-traditional,” “Honk For Barb Webb,” “#IStandWithBarbWebb” and “Sister Lenore: Your Silence is Deafening!!!”
Together, the group met to discuss their next steps. Webb won’t be returning to her job at Marian, but the call for change was heard loud and clear. Organizers are looking into setting up a Town Hall meeting and are seeking out institutional change. Through the continuous honks bellowing down the street, the group focused the conversation on the students. “What does this mean for the adolescent girls as they are being shown this as good role models? How does the rejection of support for the LGBT affect the young students?” they asked. Surly, with roughly 10 percent of any given community identifying as LGBT, the open representation of discrimination will affect those students at the school that identify as LGBT.
“It’s part of Marian’s mission to educate women about human diversity and in this have really missed out on a true life opportunity to set an example. Instead, they are perpetuating hate,” Webb said. “It’s a shame, because Marian is an amazing school with a wonderful staff and a very promising student body. I feel horrible for the students that I was forced to leave behind and wish them only the best. I feel sickened for my colleagues who are disgusted with this decision but are forced into silence for fear of their own jobs”
Leighann Patel attended Marian as a freshman in ’90. She feels if the Catholic Church had had a problem, they could’ve made it known five years ago when Webb was hired. Patel was there with her best friend, her best friend’s husband and their child who was born into a “nontraditional” household from a Christian-Jewish marriage.
“I think there are a lot of different issues with it. I don’t think that it is right that she [School President, Sister Lenore Pochelski] isn’t speaking out. Which is what my sign says. So, ‘Sister Lenore your silence is deafening.’ Make a statement. I don’t think it’s right. I think the Catholic Church is currently being run by people who don’t necessarily speak the word of God. And I think the word of God is love,” Patel said.
Bob and Susan Ufer are proud parents of a gay son. Their daughter’s good friend Courtney attended Marian but passed away 17 years ago in flight 800. They said Courtney would’ve been out front and center protesting for Webb, so they came out because that’s what Courtney would do.
“We felt that our son in his high school years had not come out, and it was a difficult experience for him. And for the kids here that are gay and that witness this type of treatment of somebody who has done nothing but spent their life doing wonderful things in every regard… kids have a tough enough go at it. We are coming out to overturn whatever we can about this injustice, so it makes an easier environment for the kids too,” Bob said.
A petition was created on Change.org asking that Marian High School and Immaculate Heart of Mary rethink their policies and start supporting LGBT staff and students. As of Sept. 16, the petition was signed by 47,300 people, just 2,700 signatures away from their goal.