Gay Catholic School Student Alleges Institutional Bullying

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday November 8, 2019

A gay former student of a Los Angeles-area Catholic school says that the school in question, Bishop Amat Memorial High School, imposed special rules on her and her girlfriend, monitoring them and even castigating them for doing nothing more than being in one another's company - treatment that their heterosexual schoolmates didn't have to endure.

What's more, the school did it without permission or consultation with the girl's mother and father, reports Buzzfeed News. In fact, Magali Rodriguez says, the school threatened to out her to her family if she didn't go along with the way she was being treated.

A case of in loco parentis gone too far? Or just plain loco?

The young woman's parents, Nicolas Rodriguez and Martha Tapia-Rodriguez, expressed their shock and disapproval about the way their daughter was treated, with Mr. Rodriguez describing the written account that his daughter finally composed in desperation as sounding "like a suicide letter" and being "a huge cry for help." Mrs. Rodriguez, meantime, put her finger on one sensitive nub of the issue: "They took it upon themselves to parent our daughter, to counsel her, to lecture her."

The Buzzfeed article recounts the girls as being called in separately for meetings with the school's disciplinary personnel - despite, Magali claims, never having caused any sort of problem at school.

But according to Magali, just being gay and having a girlfriend was enough to call down the school's wrath, despite their sexuality in itself not being expressly forbidden in the rulebook. In fact, at one point, Magali recounted, she suffered a teacher's aggressive staring at a school picnic even as two heterosexual students were kissing and embracing in plain view.

Buzzfeed quoted from a statement the school issued in which the claim was made that, "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."

Excessive displays such as, say... sitting together at lunch. That was something the girls were forbidden to do - and when they tried it, Magali said, a school staff person instantly zeroed in on them.

"They just had the teachers staked out," Buzzfeed quoted Magali as describing the way staff monitored her and her girlfriend. And that was just for sitting next to each other. Waiting together for a ride home drew an even harsher response, the Buzzfeed article said: As the young women waited for Mr. Rodriguez one day, they were approached by a school staffer who told them they would end up in Hell, and added that she was actively trying to get them kicked out of the school.

The school lavished special rules on the girls, reports Buzzfeed:

No sitting next to her girlfriend at lunch and no meeting up during breaks. The meetings with the dean of discipline would continue, as would sessions with the school psychologist, and staff would be keeping an eye on them. If she followed the rules, Rodriguez said she was told, the school wouldn't tell her parents.

The way the school dealt with Magali and her girlfriend seemingly had effects on her that are similar to the way that bullied teens respond when subjected to anti-LGBTQ harassment in school settings. Buzzfeed described the situation this way:

...after more than three years, she was at breaking point. She was crying every day before school, her grades suffered, and spending time on campus brought intense waves of anxiety.

Buzzfeed also quoted one of Magali's school friends, Crystal Aguilar, who witnessed the effects of the school's treatment of Magali and told the publication:

"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."

Magali was a senior when she finally broke the silence and clued her parents into what was going on. Their response?

They yanked her out of the school and enrolled her elsewhere.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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