Former teachers, parents and students welcome change at St. Mary - KPTV - FOX 12

Former teachers, parents and students welcome change at St. Mary's Academy

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Those making the public outcry against a St. Mary’s Academy in Portland employment decision said their efforts paid off after the school changed its hiring practices.

After reports surfaced earlier this week that the school withdrew an offer of employment to Lauren Brown, a 27-year-old counselor, after discovering she was a lesbian, students, parents, alumnae and city leaders protested the decision.

In a meeting late Wednesday night, the school announced that they would change their policy, and added sexual orientation to their non-discrimination employment policy.

Retired teachers Jan Zuckerman and Ginny Stern came to the school in celebration Thursday, proud that board members changed their stance on LGBT employees.

“I’m very encouraged that St Mary’s reversed its decision and I’m super impressed the students spoke up,” Stern said.

“We know this is a change of policy, we hope it’s a change of heart,” Zuckerman added.

School officials would not speak to Fox 12 on camera, but did send a statement noting the change in its hiring practices.

“Yesterday evening the board of St. Mary’s Academy voted unanimously to support the administration’s recommendation to amend and broaden St. Mary’s policy on equal employment, bringing our employment policies in line with our mission and beliefs. Effective immediately, St. Mary’s has added sexual orientation to its equal employment opportunity policy.”

A school spokeswoman did tell Fox 12 that they’re meeting with parents and students in private meetings to talk about what’s happened.

Lauren Brown, the counselor in the middle of the controversy, will not be hired by the school, as they already had filled the position, but did say in a release those that spoke out for her should be proud.

"The students, parents, and alumni of St. Mary’s Academy should be so proud today. In 24 hours, they came together to speak up for what they know is right. This success shows that together we really can move mountains. I hope other places in the U.S. and around the world will take notice and feel encouraged by what happened here in Portland. We are all agents of change when we put forth the effort.

No one can erase the past, and the last month of my life has been very difficult. Many people want to know if I will get my job back. Unfortunately, St. Mary’s stated last night that they filled the position with someone else, but also that they will be reaching out to my attorney and me in hopes of “reconciliation.” Although we have not yet been contacted, I am open to listening to what they have to say.

I know now that my intuition about St. Mary’s Academy was true all along. The St. Mary’s community is a safe, loving environment for students, and I am humbled that those students took such a strong stand for me. I only wish the administration’s change in heart had happened a month ago so I could be working with these inspirational students this year. Nonetheless, I am glad to know that what I experienced will never happen again at St. Mary’s, and I am overjoyed that the current LGBT staff members can now feel secure knowing they can be out at work."

St. Mary’s Academy parent Christi Ziegler was impressed with Brown, and students, for taking a stand for their beliefs.

“I hope she’s super proud of herself for standing up and coming forward because look at what happened as a result.  I hope she gets a trillion job offers and has the most success ever,” she said.

Savannah, Ziegler’s daughter and a St. Mary’s student, felt the decision should have never happened, and that it was not reflective of the spirit of the school.

I think it’s really important to say that SMA is a really good school and they don’t discriminate against their students,” she said.

Classes start for freshmen students at the school Monday.

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