Officials of a northeast Baltimore Catholic school have apologized after a 7th grade student was made to remove her gay pride shirt in front of classmates in the back of a church.
“St. Francis of Assisi School administration has expressed sorrow and apologized to the student and her family for the way the situation concerning her attire was handled,” said Christian Kendzierski, executive director of communications for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
“Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic Schools believe that every person should be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity,” Kendzierski said in an email sent yesterday to The Brew. “This incident did not live up to that standard.”
“The school is taking larger steps,” he added, “to engage in listening and compassionate healing for the good of all.”
The 12-year-old student, whose family has asked that her name not be published, was wearing a rainbow-striped PRIDE 365 shirt on Friday as part of “Dress Down Day.”
She said she has worn it on previous Dress Down days with no problem.
At the end of mass, the school’s principal told the girl’s homeroom teacher to make her take the shirt off.
Witnesses told The Brew that these school officials were directed to approach the girl and tell her to take off the shirt by the parish priest, Father John J. “Jack” Lombardi.
Kendzierski has disputed these accounts, saying the action was initiated solely by school administration. Lombardi, who took over as parish priest in July, is not mentioned in the statement released by the Archdiocese.
“School leaders have spoken with students to address the incident, to encourage an open discussion with thoughts on the experience,” Kendzierski said.
Asked about the Archdiocese’s statement, the girl’s mother confirmed she received an apology call from the school principal and that the incident was discussed with students and later with middle school parents via Zoom.
“Yes, generically, that did happen,” she said, adding that questions remain about the dress code. She asked, is there one maintained by the school but another being applied by the Archdiocese?
The Brew reached out to the Archdiocese on Sunday after classmates and other supporters of the girl protested what happened to her by wearing Pride masks and tee shirts to Sunday mass.
Kendzierski, at the time, defended what happened, saying the shirt “contained imagery and language with a message that could be determined to oppose teachings of the Catholic Church.”
Asked yesterday whether the shirt violated the dress code, he has not yet replied.
The girl’s mother said she has asked the school to make a donation to an organization that supports LGBTQ people in the city, like Baltimore Safe Haven, but has not heard whether they have agreed to do so.