Skutt Catholic is a private Catholic school located in Omaha, Nebraska. When you visit the school’s homepage, the first thing that appears is a picture of a triumphant team holding a large trophy with a bold headline reading, “2015 Skyhawk Speech Team Wins State Championship for Fourth Year in a Row.” The successful speech coach is named Matthew Eledge. Regardless of his success, Skutt is denying him his job next year.
Caroline Friedman is a freshman at University of Colorado at Boulder who graduated from Skutt Catholic in 2014. Although she did not have Eledge as a teacher, she spent a lot of time with him on educational trips to Europe in 2012, 2013, and 2014. According to Friedman, Eledge was, “The funniest teacher because he was goofy and he always made an effort to make the class laugh.” Eledge is not your average Catholic school English teacher and speech coach; he is unique in the way that he plans on marrying another man. When he made his plan apparent to the president and school board of Skutt Catholic, he discovered his teaching contract would not be renewed. Being in a same sex relationship, especially with the intent to marry, is a violation of the the conduct contract each staff member signs when they take a job at Skutt. Included in the conduct contract is a termination clause; the termination clause states teachers can be terminated for conduct that violates the Catholic Church Doctrine. Eledge is a proficient English teacher and a very successful speech coach. Although Eledge is the reason behind Skutt Catholic’s most successful headline, Skutt’s president and school board are still very serious about Eledge not returning to Skutt Catholic after this academic year.
In response to Skutt’s termination clause; students, parents, alumni and other parts of Omaha and Skutt’s community have reached out in efforts to save Eledge’s career. Kacie Hughes, a 2012 Skutt graduate who is now a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, posted a petition Tuesday supporting Eledge. As of Thursday night it had already gathered over 36,000 signatures. Stated in this petition were some of Skutt’s core beliefs, “moral and ethical leadership by not only educating, but also requiring students to provide service to, embrace diversity within and seek justice for their communities and the marginalized in our society.” With core beliefs like that, it is difficult to see why Skutt is so dead set on firing a great teacher like Eledge. David Gottschalk, a Skutt Alumni, responds to Skutt’s beliefs and its non-related actions, “here we are watching the institution that instilled these social justice values in us turn around and discriminate against the marginalized.”
I asked Friedman if Eledge’s sexuality distracted students from learning and although students were not supposed to know his sexual identity, they assumed he was gay, “very nicely dressed all the time, too nice to be straight. We weren’t allowed to know he was gay because if he told people, he would be fired on the spot, but his sexuality never got in the way of learning.” Unfortunately for Eledge, figuratively his hands are tied. He is unable to take legal action. In 2012, Omaha passed an ordinance that extended workplace anti-bias protections to gay and transgender workers, however the ordinance exempts religious organizations and schools.
There have been suspicions of other teachers breaking the conduct contract and not facing the same penalties as Eledge, Caroline believes that Eledge has been discriminated against because of his sexuality while other teachers have gone against Church teachings, “many teachers have gotten divorced and if they [the school board] wanted to look into it I’m sure teachers have lived together before getting married and have had sex before marriage which is against church teachings.” Regardless, Eledge’s best bet is public outcry, but even with over 36,000 signatures and a trending hashtag (#LetMatthewTeach), Skutt Catholic has not budged.
Contact Information: Caroline Friedmen: (402) 968 2382