In less than three months, two staff members have parted ways with a Twin Cities Catholic high school because of their sexual identity.
Kristen Ostendorf, 43, a former English teacher and lacrosse coach at Totino-Grace High School, told MinnPost that she was fired after blurting out to a roomful of fellow teachers that she is gay.
"I stood up in a room of 120 people and said, 'I’m gay, I’m in a relationship with a woman, and I’m happy,'" Ostendorf said.
The school asked Ostendorf to resign the next day, which she didn't.
Ostendorf said she wasn't given a reason for her firing.
"As far as I can surmise, the rule I broke was saying out loud that I am in a relationship with a woman," she said. "There is a document that we who work at a Catholic school sign called'Justice In Employment' in which we agree to not publicly act or speak against the Church or its teachings."
Ostendorf has been teaching at Totino-Grace for 18 years. A Chicago native, Ostendorf grew up in the Catholic school system and eventually earned her graduate degree in religious education from St. Thomas University.
She told MinnPost that she moved to the Twin Cities to marry a man, who she divorced eight years later. After realizing she was gay, Ostendorf came out to her family and friends.
Ostendorf said revealing she was gay to her colleagues was influenced by the school's former president, Dr. William Hudson, who resigned in July after revealing he was in a committed same-sex relationship.
"Bill Hudson’s resignation was prompted by anonymous information provided to the chairpersons of the Totino-Grace corporate board," Ostendorf said. "Bill’s departure under such disquieting circumstances was difficult for everyone in our school community, particularly for those of us who are gay or lesbian."
It wasn't until a couple weeks into the school year that she became conflicted with the lessons she was teaching.
"I was finding it very difficult to return to Totino-Grace, especially knowing that my job is to help students advocate for justice and be voices for the voiceless," she said. "I was struck by the dissonance between the meaning of our themes and the events that had recently taken place. I found myself trying to buy time while I tried to figure out how I could encourage others to 'make their mark' if I was willing to be part of a community where I was required to hide and compromise and deny who I am. How could I ask others to give themselves entirely to the work God calls them to when I couldn’t do this myself?"
Read MinnPost's extended interview with Ostendorf here.