British Columbia

Lesbian teacher not filing complaint

A lesbian music teacher who says she was effectively dismissed from her job at a Catholic school after her partner gave birth won't be launching a human rights complaint against the facility.

A lesbian music teacher who says she was effectively dismissed from her job at a Catholic school after her partner gave birth won't be launching a human rights complaint against the facility.

"I'm going to let this unfold," Lisa Reimer said Thursday, adding she wants to gauge parents' response to the principal's request that she work from home and assign her students online.

"I have been instructed that all the classes are cancelled and I'm not to come into the school at all or have any direct contact with the students but I am to provide all the classes, through Grade 8 to 12, an online written assignment.

"You wouldn't give a written assignment in a performing arts class to make up an entire term," Reimer said, adding the school isn't hiring another teacher to replace her until her contract expires in June.

Reimer, who is not Catholic, said she signed a clause at Little Flower Academy saying she would respect the Catholic school's faith but hadn't disclosed that she is a lesbian.

"I was not made aware that my personal life would be judged by anyone," she said.

Contract breach alleged

Celso Boscariol, chairman of the school's board of directors, said the school has no issue with Reimer's sexual orientation, just that she breached the contract by communicating her lifestyle to students.

"After she and her partner had this child she wanted to make that a part of the school life and we weren't inclined to agree to that," he said.

"It was made clear to her that 'Look, this is not on' and we had a discussion with her that the best thing to do under the circumstances was that she could complete her assignments from home and we would pay her out to the end of the year because we didn't want to put her in a situation of financial hardship."

Reimer said she didn't mention anything about her personal life in class, adding families at the school probably heard about the birth of her son from other people in the music community because she also teaches elsewhere.

Boscariol said Reimer was hired to replace a teacher on maternity leave and her contract wouldn't have been renewed anyway.

He said none of the parents complained about Reimer working at the school.

Reimer said Wednesday that school administrators told her they had no problem with her sexual orientation but that parents would not accept it.

"I really didn't deal with any parent concerns and we're not really responding to parent concerns," Boscariol said.

"It's not like a mob of people showed up demanding things be done. We're just conducting ourselves within the tenets of the Catholic faith."

Parental leave request

Reimer said that last December, she wrote a letter to the principal to ask about the school's parental leave policy because her partner would be giving birth in a few months.

She said the school doesn't offer parental leave but gave her three weeks' "personal leave."

But two days before she was to return to her job, the principal and vice-principal wanted to see her for an urgent meeting about her employment, Reimer said.

At the meeting, she was told that she would be required to work from home and that some parents were concerned about her sharing details about her life with students, Reimer said.

She said she's concerned that a teacher hasn't taken over for her and that the group of talented children is being denied music lessons.

"I think it sends an archaic message to the youth of our province, I think that's dishonourable," Reimer said of the school's decision that makes her feel like she's been fired.

Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said her staff is looking into the situation. Although it is a private school, the Little Flower Academy receives provincial funding.