Education

A former teacher at a Louisville Catholic school says the archdiocese fired her because she had sex outside of marriage. 

Former St. Andrew Academy middle school teacher Sarah Syring is suing the Archdiocese of Louisville. According to the complaint, after Syring told her administrators she was pregnant last fall, they gave her a choice: resign or marry the child’s father. She declined to do either, and the archdiocese fired her, saying she had broken provisions in the employee handbook. 

“I was shocked,” Syring said. “I just had a nice rapport with so many of those kids, and—man—I cried. I cried a lot.”

Syring is alleging gender discrimination. She says she, a woman, was fired for having extramarital sex. Meanwhile, she says, the archdiocese was aware of an male employee who had extramarital sex, but did not terminate him.

Syring, who has been on staff at St. Andrew since 2019, found out she was pregnant in August 2020. She informed the school principal, Stuart Cripe, about the pregnancy during a meeting in October. Syring said Cripe was initially supportive and came up with a plan for her maternity leave. But then a few weeks later, Srying was pulled out of her class for a meeting with Cripe and Father Chris Lubecke, the parish priest.

“[Lubecke] said, ‘Do you have plans to get married?’ And I said, ‘Sometime in the future, but not in the near future. Certainly not just because of this during a pandemic. No,’” Syring said.

She said they pressured her to resign, or get married, and that they told her “under no circumstances” was she to tell her students or families that she was pregnant.

“I definitely knew I wasn’t going to resign, because I didn’t want to do that to the kids. I didn’t want them to know that their teacher voluntarily left them,” she said.

Later that month, Lubecke and Cripe called Syring into another meeting. According to Syring, Lubecke had her read several paragraphs from the “Christian Witness”  provisions of the employee handbook, which say that employees are required to “demonstrate a public life consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

“Teaching or living a lifestyle in contradiction of the Church … can disqualify one as an employee, at least for a time, particularly when this is done deliberately, publicly, without contrition, and/or without an openness to repair any scandal resulting from said actions,” the paragraphs read.

Syring said Lubecke then informed her she could no longer work at St. Andrew Academy in her “condition,” and that he had made the decision after speaking with archdiocese leadership.

“My principal said, ‘You know, Sarah, we’re not trying to rush your relationship. But if you were to get married, this all goes away,’” Syring recounted.

“I kind of felt scared, and I kind of felt shamed,” she said.

Syring said the archdiocese has known about at least one other male employee who had extramarital sex, but leadership did not terminate his employment. According to the complaint, a male principal of an archdiocese school had an adulterous affair with a woman while married. 

“The principal’s adulterous relationship violated the Sixth Commandment, which is considered divine law in Catholicism. Nevertheless, this principal’s adulterous relationship was accommodated and he has been able to maintain his position with the Archdiocese of Louisville,” Syring’s complaint reads.

Syring alleges she received disparate treatment as a woman, and that the archdiocese’s policy of terminating employees who have engaged in premarital sex has a disparate impact on female employees, because it is enforced only when an employee is pregnant.

A spokeswoman for the Louisville Archdiocese said she could not comment on pending litigation.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.