A guest speaker pulled from lecturing at Notre Dame High School in late April following a controversial online post targeting him was welcomed back to the Belmont school last week following backlash from upset alumnae and current students.
Gregg Cassin was on campus Tuesday, May 13, and gave his presentation to the block 6 women in relationships class, following the administration’s decision to protect the school’s relationship with the gay activist who an online publication had criticized for working with the Catholic school. “California Catholic Daily” posted an item taking issue with Notre Dame hosting Cassin, a guest speaker of the school who has lectured for the Women in Relationships course for the junior class yearly for more than 20 years about self-acceptance. The website took issue with Cassin’s work outside the classroom, as an activist for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered rights.
“They set a date because of all the pressure — I know that she (Head of School Maryann Osmond) wanted me to come back,” Cassin said. “I think there is unfortunately this huge fear of different bishops and what they are doing with these morality contracts and how they are targeting gay teachers throughout the school system. It really feels like a witch hunt and it’s untimely given Pope Francis saying that we have many more things to address.”
Cassin was scheduled to talk to the four religious studies classes in March but, because he has a new work schedule, could only come for one of two days scheduled. The online post came out between Cassin’s appearance in March and this week. Over Easter break, Notre Dame teacher Barbara Sequeira arranged for Cassin to come back to the school April 29 to make up for the missed day, which Osmond didn’t find out about until April 28. Given the publicity, she felt the best thing to do at that time was to hold off on having him back again until next year while things settled down.
“I made the decision ... that it would best to wait for things to die down with the whole controversy,” Osmond, who became head of school in February after serving as an interim for the position, previously said. “It was my intention to protect my relationship with Gregg and to make sure I could continue the relationship. … I realize that my reasons for the decision could be misinterpreted.”
Cassin has exchanged emails with Osmond, but hasn’t had a chance to speak with her on the phone or in person yet.
“I will look forward to talking to Maryann,” he said.
Meanwhile, alumnae of the school quickly created a Facebook page dedicated to supporting Cassin called “NDB Women Respond” and has nearly 2,400 members.
“The very important thing is alumnae are very clear there are things they want and insurance something like this won’t happen again,” Cassin said.
During Cassin’s latest visit he decided not to address the previous cancellation of his April speech since he said he wanted the message of his lecture to be exactly what everyone else gets, along with not wanting to get the girls pulled into a political debate.
“I feel really committed to a message of self-esteem and taking a stand for oneself,” he said. “It was really lovely and people were very welcoming. I do believe that the commitment of the alumnae is amazing and heroic.”
Three other Catholic schools in the area were also criticized on the website for what each of the schools teach, with the site urging readers to contact local officials about the schools’ actions.
“Most important is to contact the principal of your local Catholic elementary schools,” the March 21 California Catholic Daily posting about Notre Dame states. “Almost all enrollment to Catholic high schools come from Catholic elementary feeder schools. The elementary principals may be unaware of the catastrophic state of religious education in Archdiocesan high schools, and they are the persons with the greatest ability to effect change, by their willingness to steer students towards or away from prospective high schools.”
Although Cassin was happy with is return, he is still concerned about contracts bishops are coming up that target gay teachers.
“This is all the sudden at this strange time when the pope for the first time said the word “gay,” Cassin said. “The bishops coming up with these contracts are completely making schools unsafe for LGBT students. We know that when there is an LGBT role model at a school, kids feel they are included and safe.”
In addition to the Facebook page she created, class of 1993 alumna Jennifer Doskow-Perea sent a letter to Osmond asking her to specifically state the reasoning for removing Cassin as a speaker, issuing a statement to the women impacted, inviting Cassin back to the school and hosting a retreat on campus with alumnae, students, parents and the community to come together to hear Cassin’s message of love and self-acceptance.
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