Marla Krolikowski, a former New York Catholic teacher who was fired for being transgender or “worse than gay,” received a major victory in court Monday after Judge Duane Hart rejected the defense’s claims that she was a minister for the school. Judge Hart remarked that former Saint Francis Prep teacher did not fulfill the requirement put forth by the defense that because she taught religious classes she was a minister for the school.
Moreover, as ABC News reporter Sarah Wallace mentioned, he doubted the defense’s rationale that because she “insubordinate,” she was fired by the school. He also rejected their claims that the school was a private, religious institution that should not be interfered with over their right to hire or fire individuals.
She was fired last year after a parent at the school filed a complaint with the administrators about her appearance. Krolikowski was taken aback when administrators “deemed her insubordinate.” As journalist Lester Brathwaite placed it,
Krolikowski told then-Principal Leonard Conway and Assistant Principal Patrick McLaughlin that he was transgender and intended to start coming to work dressed as a woman. According to Krolikowski’s lawsuit, Conway said being transgender was “worse than gay,” and forbid him from attending school events as a woman. Krolikowski agreed to lose the earrings and nails, and he says he received stellar evaluations during the 2011-12 school year. But his bosses still deemed him insubordinate in June 2012 and demanded his resignation. He was officially terminated in August. (Emphasis mine)
It must be noted that Krolikowski also who assisted with concerts held at the school that feature music, acting and other art forms. She even assisted with a concert of students to play for then-Pope Benedict XVI when he visited New York in 2008.
A petition on Change.org, titled “St. Francis Preparatory High School: Formally Apologize to Mark (Marla) Krolikowski for Sexual Discrimination,” has amassed, at current time of writing, 14,173 signatures. While the official creator of petition is Cristina Guarino, the group, “Alumni Against the Treatment of Mr. K,” collectively wrote this on the petition page:
“Mr. K,” as he was affectionately known by most of his students, had worked for SFP for over 30 years and was always himself: funny, eccentric, loving, and accepting. Ask anyone who had him and they will rave about his stellar teaching and friendly demeanor. In a school in which many of the faculty can often be bossy and tyrannical, Mr. K created a warm and welcoming environment for all his students and their peers.
Moreover, the level of support for Marla has been strong as evident through the comment section of the petition. The most popular comment in the petition comes from an alumni of the school named David Burkard. He wrote that,
We the students, alumni, and staff of Prep are supposed to be good “Christians” and that means not only going the extra step to be kind to others, but also that we must be accepting and loving to everyone. Mr. K always spoke out about public injustices, both domestic and international, and by doing so proved to be one of the most”Christian” persons I’ve ever met. You cannot just fire someone because they “don’t reflect the values you wish to instill,” when clearly they do. The act of firing Mr.K has proved to me that the establishment is quite plainly ignorant, insensitive, and most importantly hypocritical. I was once a proud Terrier, but now I can honestly say I’m ashamed. (Emphasis mine)
Other students of the school gave their words of support and sincerity:
Mr. K is an icon of individuality and good spirit at prep, and he will not be ousted without an uproar. – Danielle Cervantes, Bellerose, New York
As a member of the Class of ’88, I have fond memories of Mr. K. As a student of St. Francis Prep, I was taught that social justice was an underpinning of society. SFP is certainly not adhering to that tenet by firing Mr. K for living as he is. – Robert Kohn, Alexandria, Virginia
He is a great teacher and should never have been treated this way! – Alex Maureau, Glendale, New York
Folks from across the country, and even the globe, gave their regards to Ms. Krolikowski. Here are a few examples:
As a close friend to many transgendered people I have reason to know that they endure the most terrible discrimination. My friends, gentle, honest, kind, intelligent, law-abiding people all, suffer terrible discrimination for the terrible fault of being born different. Firing a successful teacher of many years’ standing is disgraceful. The school needs to rethink their value system. – Diane Ullman, Houston, Texas
Trans and Catholic. If Mr K were my teacher in high school, the church might not have lost yet another member. – Colin Crowe, Minneapolis, Minnesota
As a member of both the gay and trans communities, I feel that it’s appalling that one could lose their livelihood based solely on the factors of their sex, gender, or sexual orientation. Regardless of the rights of private institutions, I feel that actions such as this greatly catalyze the long and agonizing process of social progress. – Madeleine Guekguezian, Fresno, California
Two courses that Krolikowski taught were titled “Social Justice” and “Humanity Sexual and Love.” Based on what the judge decided, both of those have been fulfilled on Monday. She said to ABC News,
I’m so glad that I fought and, irregardless of what the court outcome is, I feel I won. I won and I’m who I’m supposed to be finally.
The two sides will need to reach an agreement until October 23, where the case will be decided by Judge Hart and create a legal precedent if there is no agreement.
As a former student that took her “Social Justice” class that has assisted with my activism, I am happy that she has gained this victory while letting this period of her life come to an end.