An all-girls Catholic high school that prides itself on fostering its students’ ‘independence of judgement’ and ‘strength of character’ is threatening to expel a sophomore because of a Planned Parenthood sticker on her laptop, the girl’s parents have said.
Kate Murray, who attends Sacred Heart Greenwich in Connecticut, has been told she will be banned from the school if she doesn’t get rid of the sticker, Brian and Tracy Murray told the Greenwich Time.
The sticker, one of several on Kate’s laptop, states ‘I stand on Planned Parenthood’ and could bar Kate from attending classes at the institution, which has branded itself as in inclusive organization for students of all religions and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Banned: Sacred Heart Greenwich, an all-girls Catholic high school in Connecticut, has threatened to expel a student due to a Planned Parenthood sticker, her parents have said
School officials have given Kate two choices, according to her parents: either remove the sticker and continue her education as normal, or keep it and leave immediately or at the end of the school year.
For now, Kate has removed the sticker and attended classes on Wednesday and Thursday. However, no decision has been made as to whether she will continue her education at Sacred Heart Greenwich, which charges its students in grades nine through 12 $43,600-a-year in tuition fees.
‘It is a small sticker. It is not incendiary, it is not vulgar. It is not hurtful,’ Tracy told the Greenwich Time.
‘It is a statement of my daughter’s belief and she deserves the same respect for her beliefs that the administration and part of the faculty are demanding for theirs.’
Brian, meanwhile, said the sticker addresses a political issue about government funding and does not violate church doctrine.
The head of the school, Pamela Hayes, said the institution cannot comment on individual students’ issues, but wrote that the school discourages the display of anything ‘supporting or opposing political candidates, positions or organizations’.
In its mission statement, Sacred Heart Greenwich presents itself as an empowering school for girls, aiming to help them reach their full potential.
‘Sacred Heart, steeped in a solid academic tradition, educates women to have independence of judgment, personal freedom, and strength of character so that they can become leaders with broad intellectual and spiritual horizons,’ the statement reads.
Message: A petition created to support the student, sophomore Kate Murray, has so far received more than 2,000 signatures
She stands with Kate: Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards has expressed her support for the student too
Students at the school are encouraged to use their faith ‘in a positive way’, according to a presentation video posted on its website.
‘As a Catholic school, Sacred Heart holds deeply to the development of the faith of each student,’ the institution’s mission statement reads. ‘Their spiritual development is reinforced through coursework, prayer, reflection and liturgy so they will experience God in their own way.’
‘Open dialogue is alive and well on our campus and that’s why we discourage the displays of slogans and bumper stickers, which in an educational environment can have the unintended consequence of stifling open debate,’ Hayes wrote on the school’s website. ‘We know there are better forums.’
The Catholic Church has historically opposed abortion and birth control, both among the services provided by Planned Parenthood.
Kate’s parents, attorneys based in Wilton, are usually very happy with the school but feel that their daughter is facing an ‘extreme reaction’ from administrators.
The sophomore, whose older sister Alex graduated from the same school in 2012, has no discipline record and is an excellent students, the Murrays added.
A petition created to support Kate has so far received more than 2,000 signatures, with people voicing their disagreement with the school’s decision in the comments section.
‘You can’t pick some causes to favor and reject those you don’t like,’ someone wrote. ‘Kate Murray is an excellent example for ALL WOMEN to stand up and protect our democratic ideals, including free speech.’
‘It is unacceptable to expel a student because you don’t agree with them,’ someone else added.
Beliefs: The Catholic Church has historically opposed abortion and birth control, both among the services provided by Planned Parenthood
It was a friend of the Murray family named Stephanie Viola, herself a 2012 graduate of Sacred Heart Greenwich, who started the petition, the Greenwich Time reported. Stephanie has also written to the school to make it clear that she, too, stands with Planned Parenthood.
‘The actions you are taking make you no better than the oppressive forces you are teaching women to question,’ she wrote before referring to the school by its former name, Convent Of The Sacred Heart.
‘My CSH education is why I’m speaking out now in defense of a student’s right to support an institution that provides professional medical care to men and women alike. I support Kate Murray. I support Planned Parenthood. I support all-girls’ Catholic education.’
Other alumnae have written to the school with similar messages of support for Kate.
The president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, has expressed her support for the student too.
‘Kate, Planned Parenthood is so proud to count you as a supporter,’ she tweeted on Thursday. ‘Keep fighting for what you believe in. #IstandwithKateMurray.’
The all-girls school is not a diocesan school, but the Bridgeport diocese has said it supports the decision. A statement from the diocese says the school should affirm the church’s opposition to abortion while respecting the right of students to raise questions about moral issues.