April 30th, 2013
12:02 PM ET

Opinion: Good for Jason Collins, but not for Carla Hale – sports and schools last places to come out

Editor’s Note: David M. Hall, Ph.D., is the author of the book “Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment.” Hall teaches high school students and runs a graduate program in bullying prevention and diversity at bullyingpreventionstudies.com. He is on twitter @drdavidmhall.

By David M. Hall, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Times are changing for being openly gay or lesbian. The president has endorsed same-sex marriage, as are a growing number of politicians. The Boy Scouts are considering allowing Scouts to be out.

Even in the world of sports, Jason Collins, an NBA veteran, has come out of the closet.

But things don’t seem to have changed that much in some high school gymnasiums as it has on the NBA basketball court.

Carla Hale worked as a physical education teacher at a Catholic school in Ohio, but lost her job after being “outed” in her mother’s obituary, when she listed her female partner as her spouse. According to reports, an anonymous letter was sent to the Catholic Diocese of Columbus by a parent.

The next week, Hale was fired.

Sporting events and schools are the very places where people from every corner of our society come together. But in some ways, schools bring a different set of complications than the macho world of professional male athletes.

What is the difference between being out on the court or on the field, and being out in a classroom?

On the sports field, players answer not just to their coaches, but also the fans, and companies, for endorsement. We can sit in the stands – or visit the locker room–of almost any male sport and hear “man-up” language, and homophobic insults. Take for instance the viral video of a former Rutgers University basketball coach using homophobic language that dehumanizes and isolates those who might be gay.

In addition, if a player fears that he is going to lose valuable endorsements by coming out, many will hesitate to do so. Jason Collins is being seen as an inspiration because many gay male athletes fear that an athletic environment will not accept them for who they are.

In schools, teachers are accountable to a wide array of people: administrators, elected officials, parents, students. In
the case of Carla Hale, she is being financially and emotionally punished for her sexual orientation.

Employees in both of these environments face different pressures because of the increased level public scrutiny.
Fortune 500 companies lead in LGBT diversity and inclusion. Even when they are in states in which it is legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity, the vast majority pass their own policies to protect employees from discrimination. They realize that in order to be competitive, employees need to be able to bring their whole selves to work.

These companies know that they need happy, engaged, and creative employees. If they do not have that, the consequences can be devastating to their bottom line.

But in our schools, and in our sports, LGBT employees still cannot bring their whole self to work.

Athletics and education are moving in the right direction, but there is a cost in human potential and productivity for each day that we do not have sports’ teams and schools reflect the human dignity of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Our culture is changing, and we are starting to see more people willing to come out now, more than ever.

But it has not changed so much that a private education teacher grieving for her mother can not acknowledge her love for fear of losing her job.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David M. Hall.

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Karen

    It is also a school that receives tax dollars from the citizens of the state of Ohio. How loving of the school to call a teacher in, who has an exemplary career with them, to tell her she is fired after her mother died.

    May 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Matt

    I agree with JFCanton. Being gay myself, I feel it is very unfortunate that this happened, however, it is no secret. She taught at a private (and I believe religious) school that had a clear "moral policy." Granted, I find it ironic that the moral policy is pretty immoral, she went in knowing the "rules" and it unfortunately bit her in the ass. This isn't a federally-funded school, it is a private school, with a private tuition that parents pay and if those parents want to stand behind this policy, then Carla Hale doesn't really have a leg to stand on.

    I'm glad the students are standing up and speaking their outrage at the school for hiring a teacher they love, and perhaps that will be enough to make them overlook their policy. However, I don't think there is anything that can be done with this, legally. I'm sorry for her, but as I said, it should have been no surprise that this was a potential risk of working at a private/religious school.

    May 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • IrishinToronto

      So what if they're private? They are an employer and must follow the same employment laws as any other employer.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
      • Nelson

        IrishinToronto – I do not know if you are in fact Canadian, and if so, if it is different up there. But church organizations do not have to follow ANY rules they don't like due to the separation of church and state here. It's disgusting, but true.

        May 24, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Michael

    All these companys and politicians need to be liked there are codepended in need of being liked – to serive I am not -so I am able to tell you the truth and I don't need you to like me I only need you to hear it .

    May 2, 2013 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff

    See, there's a thing called checks and balances; states are given the authority over laws within their borders so as to not give the Federal Government too much power.

    May 1, 2013 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JFCanton

    Is it realistic to think that we can prevent the specific problem of a *private* school teacher being fired after being outed? It seems problematic enough to do this in the small-business world because, unlike with those Fortune 500 companies, a blanket policy against gays probably has an indifferent effect on the business itself. Few small-business jobs require that one specific individual. If a business owner cares whether employees are gay (or objects to paying benefits, which is probably a much more common scenario), he or she would probably respond to a ban by screening before hire.

    A school that parents are paying for is another step above that because it's a free association with (in this case) a morals clause. It's unfortunate that somebody is going to finger a teacher in this context, but *anyone* going to or teaching at such a school (or similarly, in a club) is making compromises in their freedom of action. If you sign up under the rules, you have to play by them.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |