A Catholic school staff in La Puente, California, made the unilateral decision to discipline a gay student without consulting her parents.
The handbook for Bishop Amat Memorial High School – a prominent Catholic school in the Los Angeles area known for academics and sports programs – does not stipulate any rules against homosexuality.
Former student Magali Rodriguez knows this for a fact because she checked.
However, she found herself being singled out by the school staff and forced into disciplinary meetings and counseling because she was gay. If she refused to abide by the rules, which included not sitting next to her girlfriend, then the school would threaten to out her to her parents.
Rodriguez came out to her friends during middle school and began dating a sophomore student by the time she reached ninth grade.
Despite her awareness of the Catholic teaching's on homosexuality, she felt comfortable in knowing her friends would not judge her based on sexual orientation.
"I was surrounding myself with people that were really involved in their religion, but still accepting. So I never thought there was anything bad about it."
But someone felt uncomfortable about her sexuality and reported her to the school.
A gay teen at California's Bishop Amat Memorial High School says the Catholic high school threatened to out her if… https://t.co/4wnJOLHk19— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeed News) 1573182093.0
She was summoned by the dean who said the school would keep a close watch on her to make sure she didn't sit next to her girlfriend at lunch and meet up with her on breaks. As long as she was compliant, her parents would not be notified about their daughter being gay.
At the time, Rodriguez was still struggling over the decision to come out to her parents because she was scared. Rodriguez was also subjected to seeing the school psychologist in addition to her regular disciplinary sessions with the dean.
@BuzzFeedNews The same school that gave my classmate a detention for having holes in her shoes.— Sarita (@Sarita) 1573192736.0
The next two years after the initial disciplinary meeting, Rodriguez said she and her girlfriend cried before going in to their respective regular counseling sessions.
"We were really afraid on campus. We didn't hold hands, we hardly hugged or anything."
@BuzzFeedNews How is this not a school bullying a kid? This is a school saying to a kid; be who we want or we will… https://t.co/iQfMogISPl— Maze (@Maze) 1573182651.0
Crystal Aguilar, a friend from middle school, noticed the emotional toll everything took on Rodriguez.
"I [saw] her attitude towards school change drastically. It went from her being motivated to learn and be at school, to her dreading every day she'd go. Her sadness because of it overtook her at times."
Based on how Rodriguez was being treated, other gay students who had not yet come out either transferred schools or remained in the closet.
@BuzzFeedNews I remember where they didn’t let a student come in a suit because she was a girl even tho she felt more comfortable in a suit— 🅰️drian🦂 (@🅰️drian🦂) 1573195412.0
The conditions at school eventually affected Rodriguez's relationship and she wound up breaking up with her girlfriend.
"I thought to myself, I don't know how much longer I can go."
@BuzzFeedNews When I was a freshman, my classmate fell out of her seat and the teacher who was a priest said “why i… https://t.co/VwmToNzN4Q— Sarita (@Sarita) 1573194448.0
After three years of abiding by the strict rules – which did not apply toward straight students – Rodriguez reached a breaking point.
Buzzfeed News said she cried everyday before school, received poor grades and suffered frequent pangs of anxiety and depression while on campus.
@BuzzFeedNews Same school that let a star athlete get away with having sex with a TA in the LRC.— Sirkittymcmittens (@Sirkittymcmittens) 1573205071.0
It was time to speak up.
Rodriguez came forward because she didn't "want it to happen to anybody else."
She also wrote her parents a letter revealing her sexuality and how the school was treating her.
"I'm not OK. And I'm not OK being in this type of environment that's supposed to be lifting me and encouraging me."
Her mother, Martha Tapia-Rodriguez, was not shocked over her daughter being gay but was appalled by how poorly the reputable school treated her daughter.
"They took it upon themselves to parent our daughter, to counsel her, to lecture her."
Nicolas Rodriguez, her father, said the letter sounded like "a huge cry for help."
He also added:
"It sounded like a suicide letter."
But when Bishop Amat was confronted about their conduct towards the gay student, they denied Rodriguez's claims.
@BuzzFeedNews So a staff member came to them and said they were going to go to hell and that they were workin on ex… https://t.co/5wZzuN9djC— Grelod_The_Kind (@Grelod_The_Kind) 1573191410.0
Buzzfeed said the school issued a statement, saying the school does not discriminate on the "basis of race, color, disability, medical condition, sex, or national and/or ethnic origin."
@BuzzFeedNews Thats how Amat is. My time there I have seen many of my piers show public display of affection. If yo… https://t.co/h3St6JDqDa— Drew Figueroa (@Drew Figueroa) 1573197317.0
The statement included the following:
"Any student who is involved in a relationship may socialize appropriately on campus."
"However, as stated in the Parent/Student handbook, engaging in excessive displays of affection on campus is not permitted."
@BuzzFeedNews Terrible @AmatLancer to hear. You should want to do better. Acceptance is what you should teach and s… https://t.co/4XjlP66pbO— Elena Hernandez (@Elena Hernandez) 1573191504.0
Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry said that the Catholic church's treatment of gay and lesbian students across the country varies but confirmed that "mostly, it says we have to accept people."
While surveys show that a decent majority of Catholics support marriage equality, DeBernardo acknowledged that the voices of those adamant against it are among the loudest.
"As a baptized Catholic, they belong to the church community. They have gifts they can offer to the church community, but unfortunately, not all church community members are going to recognize that."
@BuzzFeedNews School leadership should read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It clearly states that homosexual… https://t.co/wBcM75Knl4— KeyRose (@KeyRose) 1573225958.0
Currently, Rodriguez is preparing to finish the year at a different high school.
And while she said she felt like she can finally breathe, she revealed the glaring hypocrisy over at Bishop Amat.
"I wouldn't be proud if I got a diploma from Bishop. What they showed me about what they stand for and their true values isn't what they really live up to."
"Author Peter Gajdics spent six years in a bizarre form of conversion therapy (delivered in the form of primal therapy) that attempted to 'cure' him of his homosexuality. Kept with other patients in a cult-like home in British Columbia, Canada, Gajdics was under the authority of a dominating, rogue psychiatrist who controlled his patients, in part, by creating and exploiting a false sense of family."