When Amanda Kammes, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and long-time high school sports coach, was denied the position of girls lacrosse coach at Benet Academy this Fall, there was rightful confusion among the community. Kammes was overqualified for this role at her alma mater and went through every necessary background check after being offered the position. Yet, after submitting her information form to the Head of School, Benet Academy mysteriously rescinded their offer. On this form, Kammes listed her emergency contact as her wife.
Benet Academy, founded in 1887, is a Catholic high school in Lisle, IL. Even though countless numbers of gay students, faculty, and staff have walked its halls, the administration still refuses to respect the basic human rights of people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+.
When students learned of the reason for Benet’s refusal to hire Kammes, they organized a peaceful protest, deciding to wear rainbow accessories to school on the following Monday. In response, the head of school, Stephen A. Marth, sent out a school-wide email. In the email, Marth states, “rainbow colors have come to represent an affirmation of a particular lifestyle or life choices that the Church, in her wisdom, does not and cannot condone.” Additionally, Marth urged students to wear the symbol of the cross, rather than the rainbow to school on that upcoming Monday.
Marth’s email effectively divided the student body into two groups; those who support the LGBTQ+ community and those who do not. Additionally, the email put pressure onto students, who are potentially closeted or living in unsupportive home environments, to choose what to wear to school that day.
While the community’s protest was fruitful and Kammes was eventually hired as lacrosse coach, the administration has not sent out any form of apology or acknowledgment of its wrongdoing. As a Benet Academy alumna, I find this to be deeply unnerving. The tension created by Marth’s email is something that will have lasting consequences for students at Benet Academy. The actions of the administration demonstrated to the students who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community that they do not have the same support as those who are not a part of the community.
Benet was transformed into a place of strain, in which students were unable to feel entirely safe as they went through their day, attending classes and socializing with their fellow classmates. Schools should be a place where students can learn without living under the sentiments of fear and hatred. The actions of the administration fostered hate among their own student body. That is something that cannot simply be forgiven just because they reversed their original choice and decided instead to hire Kammes.
In the post-Obergefell v. Hodges world, students should not feel the need to hide their true identities from their classmates, teachers, and friends. Benet Academy, and other Catholic institutions, cannot continue to spew hatred from behind the protection of so-called “church teachings”. Every student that walks through the doors of their high school should be treated with respect, no matter how they choose to identify themselves.
It is time that Catholic Institutions learn that hate is no longer tolerated. As an alumna of Benet Academy and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am ashamed to discover that the faculty and staff that I looked up to for years would allow these actions to be taken. Benet Academy must be held accountable for the hate they have fostered within the walls of their school.
The Benet administration’s decision to hire Amanda Kammes is a small step towards a more inclusive community. However, we should also acknowledge that it is the bare minimum. A diverse staff and student body at Benet Academy should be celebrated, not tolerated. It is important that schools in Illinois and throughout the country learn from the experience that Benet students were forced to go through and take steps to ensure that something like this will never happen again.