Parents Outraged Over Firing of Lesbian Teacher at Waldron Mercy Academy

Margie Winters is married to her partner.

Waldron Mercy Academy via Google Maps

Waldron Mercy Academy via Google Maps

It may be summer break at the Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion, but administrators at the private Catholic school have their hands full thanks to their decision to fire the school’s longtime director of religious eduction, Margie Winters, a gay woman who is married to her partner.

Winters was fired in June after eight years at Waldron Mercy. The school won’t say why she was let go, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters, but the writing seems to be on the wall: Winters was apparently fired because she is in a gay marriage.

“It’s gross… I want to quit,” one Waldron Mercy teacher told us under the condition of anonymity, adding that the school generally doesn’t have an anti-gay culture. (None of the parents or teachers we spoke to for this article would allow us to use their names.) “She’s been openly gay forever. But a couple of parents found out that Margie is married and complained. It’s one thing to be gay at this school. It’s another thing to be in a gay marriage, apparently.”

Word of Winters’ termination trickled down to parents over the last couple of weeks, and many have expressed anger and concern over the school’s decision. A group of parents recently met with Winters, and another parent meeting is scheduled for this week at a restaurant in Fairmount. Meanwhile, a Stand with Margie Facebook group was started on Tuesday.

Last Friday, Waldron Mercy principal Nell Stetser sent a letter to parents, addressing the controversy without using the word “gay.”

“Like you, I truly value Margie and appreciate her amazing contributions to our religious education and outreach programs,” wrote Stetser. “Margie certainly has enriched the lives of everyone in the WMA family. As WMA’s principal, however, my duty is to protect our school’s future. In the Mercy spirit, many of us accept life choices that contradict current Church teachings, but to continue as a Catholic school, Waldron Mercy must comply with those teachings.”

Stetser went on to explain that theologians, ethicists and canon lawyers were all consulted before a final decision was made.

“I realize some disagree with my decision,” she went on. “I believe, however, I have acted in the best interest of the Waldron Mercy community and preserved our heritage as a Catholic school. We are not alone in this plight. My hope is the pain we experience today adds to the urgency of engaging in an open and honest discussion about this and other divisive issues at the intersection of our society and our Church.”

The parent group that is supporting Winters fired off this response to parents regarding Stetser’s letter:

Dear Parents,

On July 3rd, 2015 you received a letter from Waldron Mercy Academy communicating the dismissal of Margie Winters.

According to a recent conversation with Margie, her employment contract was not renewed because she is gay and married to her partner. While it was known by many close to her that she is gay, a recent complaint from a family that has since left Waldron escalated this situation to the school administration, the Board, the Sisters of Mercy and the Archdiocese.

For the past eight years, Margie has done a phenomenal job guiding our children in the spirit of Mercy. We feel blessed to have her in our children’s lives. She embodies the Mercy spirit.

Emotions about this decision run the spectrum. Whether you are supportive of this decision or not, we want you to be aware of the full situation. Due to legal and HR restrictions, you may not hear more details from WMA.

Please note this is not an official school communication and is not being approved by the administration or the Board. This information is accurate and is being shared to inform our community. We anticipate Margie’s story will go to the press.

Margie’s primary request was for all of us to act inclusively and with Mercy. This may challenge our community, as we will not all agree on all aspects of this decision. Please pray for Margie and the WMA community.

As members of the Waldron community, we are standing with Margie and hope you will join us. We need your help. The media around this story could have major implications for our community. We hope that in the spirit of Mercy, we can stand together to support Margie.

More as this story develops.

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