Gay teachers take legal action after being fired

By : Jamie Hyman
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Winter Park – An attorney is demanding that a lesbian couple fired from a Winter Park pre-school allegedly for being gay get their jobs back and an apology and compensation for damages.

Mary Meeks, an Orlando attorney, is working with the couple on legal recourse. Meeks said the first step is a demand letter alleging that the terminations violate the Orange County Human Rights Ordinance and the federal Civil Rights Act, not to mention the Methodist Church’s own stance on LGBT discrimination.

“The terminations of [the couple] were nothing more than blatant acts of homophobic discrimination, proscribed even by the Methodist church’s own governing principles,” the letter reads.

The letter was sent to Barbara Twachtman, director of Aloma Methodist Early Childhood Learning Center.

Jaclyn Pfeiffer, 29, was a teacher at Aloma Methodist ECLC and said she was let go from the school after her girlfriend, Kelly Bardier, began working as a substitute at the same school and rumors of their relationship began. Bardier, 33, was also released from her part-time job as a substitute teacher.

“Termination of Jaclyn and Kelly for simply acknowledging their God-given identities was particularly egregious, given your admission to Jaclyn that she was ‘one of the best two teachers you have ever had at the school’,” the letter stated.

Pfeiffer, after two years with the school, was terminated March19 and Bardier said they received a number of phone calls that morning because the school sent a letter to parents and teachers announcing Pfeiffer’s firing.

“It has become apparent that many of your students’ parents are upset about Jaclyn and Kelly’s terminations,” the letter continued, “and are voicing their concerns about the school’s discriminatory actions and about the school’s apparent lack of concern for their children’s welfare by depriving them of established relationships with such qualified and well-respected teachers.”

When the couple went to pick up final paychecks, Bardier said the school issued Pfeiffer a termination letter stating she was fired for not showing up for three days.

“They fired her illegally, realized they did something wrong, then attempted to try to fix it and made up a false reason to fire her legally,” she said.

According to the United Methodist Church website, the church opposes “all forms of on gender, gender identity, sexual practice, or sexual orientation,” and “Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.”

However, a statement released by Gretchen Hastings, the director of communications for Florida Conference UMC, does not underscore the national UMC principles.

“We want to respect the need for personnel matters to be handled with confidentiality, but we can say decisions regarding their employment involve long standing policies intended to the reflect the beliefs and values of this congregation,” Hastings’ statement reads. “These are policies applicable to all employees.”

Meeks said her plans include an EEOC claim and a lawsuit if the school doesn’t retract the terminations, issue apologies, and compensate for their damages.

“Jaclyn and Kelly have suffered compensatory damages, including extreme emotional distress, as a result of these alleged unlawful actions,” reads the letter. The letter concludes advising the school to respond or “my clients will proceed with legal actions to enforce their legal rights and defend against these attacks on their human dignity.”

 

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