St. Mary band director fired for gay wedding plans

Alissa Widman Neese
Jan 11, 2014
Sandusky Central Catholic School forced its band and choir director to resign this week, shortly after officials learned he and his boyfriend recently became engaged to be married.
Brian Panetta, who is in his fifth year of employment, initially received a letter of termination Jan. 3, which stated he was fired for violating the moral and religious teachings of the Catholic Church.

This letter came just hours after Panetta approached the school’s president about his engagement, to discuss if an end-of-the-year resignation would help avoid any conflicts concerning his gay relationship, he said.

On Thursday, however, Panetta met with school administrators, a priest and representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, who offered more information and agreed he could resign instead of having a termination on his record, he said.    

“I’m satisfied with their explanation, and right now I’m just praying for understanding and strength,” Panetta said. “It’s hard for me to walk away, but it’s what’s best for me personally, and I hope my students will understand that.”

Panetta and his fiancé, Nathan David, started dating while attending the University of Dayton five years ago. They plan to wed in July 2015.

Their relationship wasn’t a secret to the Sandusky Central Catholic School community, as David often attended school events and met several students and their families, Panetta said.

“This community has been like a family to me, and I’ve always had nothing but support,” Panetta said. “I never had to hide.”

After David popped the question on Christmas Day, however, Panetta said he knew things could get complicated.

All Sandusky Central Catholic School employees must sign a contract stating they will live a lifestyle according to the Catholic faith, he said.

“I knew if we ever wanted to get married, it would limit my time teaching at the school I love,” Panetta said. “When I met with the diocese, they basically told me my engagement is a public statement of my support for equality for gay marriage, which the Catholic Church does not support.”

Panetta identifies as Catholic and attended Catholic school for grades K-12. He said working at Sandusky Central Catholic School was an ideal first job.

In his four and a half years working there, Panetta grew the school’s band from 18 to about 50 members, and also produced similar numbers for its choir. He oversaw band for grades 5-12 and choir for grades 7-12.

Panetta said he still doesn’t feel his work is done, but he understands why he is no longer permitted to work at the school. After Thursday’s resignation agreement, he said he feels he is stepping down with the school’s support.

He distributed a letter to the school community Friday that announced his resignation and his engagement to David, in which he called himself a “proud and gay Catholic”

“The hardest part was not getting to speak to (my students) about it, so I’m thankful for that opportunity,” Panetta said. “Everyone knows about my lifestyle, and I always thought the best way to handle this was to be upfront, honest and proactive. I just wanted to provide clarity about this situation”

It’s unknown who will take over Panetta’s job, as students resumed classes Thursday after winter break extended three extra days because of bad weather.

After the Register left a message for Sandusky Central Catholic School president Melody Curtis on Wednesday, she responded within minutes with an emailed statement.

“Mr. Panetta is no longer employed at Sandusky Central Catholic School,” the statement said. “We do not discuss personnel situations with the media.”

Two days later, however, she emailed a revised statement, which she also distributed to the school community.

“It is with great sadness that we extend to you that Mr. Brian Panetta has resigned his position today as director and coordinator of music at Sandusky Central Catholic School,” it said. “Although parting ways is never easy, especially in the midst of a school year, we would like to thank Mr. Panetta for his devotion and service to the school, and the gifts and talents he brought to the music program.”

The statement also provided a link to Panetta’s letter, both of which will be available on the Register’s website.

The school hired Curtis as president this past summer after adopting the president-principal administrative model for the first time. She was previously executive director of Monroe Catholic Elementary Schools in Monroe, Mich., and has almost 15 years of experience in Catholic education.

Sally Oberski, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, which oversees Catholic schools in Northwest Ohio, said she couldn’t offer any additional comments about the situation when contacted Thursday.

A Catholic school’s decisions involving personnel are “local decisions,” and the diocese’s role is simply to be available for consultation if the school desires it, Oberski said.

“The school has a governing board, a president and a principal, and it’s a local decision,” Oberski said. “There’s nothing more I can tell you than what the local leadership has told you.”

Because Sandusky Central Catholic School is not funded by taxpayer dollars, it is not required to release personnel files or other documents to the Register.

Click here to read letter from school's director

Click here to read letter from Panetta to students

Click here to visit Brian Panetta's website


John Harville

Naming names. Maybe it's time for those of us in the 'know' to begin sharing names with the Diocese....


SMCC student, who planted you here. You are either being told to do this or you're not a student.


Just because someone disagrees with you they have been "planted"?


For a mom x6 you don't know kids very well. These aren't the posts of kids.

Panther Student

SMCC has taught us to form our own opinions on things...

John Harville

Form your own opinions.... but to speak them openly if they disagree with Church teachings?
So opine for us please... is masturbation a sin?
Is divorce except for unchastity a sin?
Is ANY form of sexual activity outside Sacred Wedlock a sin?
If Catholics marry outside the church, are their children bastards?
You might want to check your catechism before you answer.

Panther Student

I do not go against the Catholic Church's teachings. I think you misunderstood me. I am referring to the fact that a previous commentor mentioned that the students on here were planted. We'll defend our school and our Church by our own will.

Smcc Student


-Nobody planted me here. I made this account when I was a freshman and have had it for a few years. I am still a student. Is your knowledge to superior for a "kid" to disagree with? I am flattered that you think my posts could not be written by a kid. I can credit my great St. Mary's education for teaching me well. Congratulations, you just indirectly complemented the same school that you hate.


Well, if your "education" was so "great," you would have likely learned that every reputable institute and organization in existence (and I'm not talking the Family Research Council, the Ruth Institute, NARTH, PFOX, National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, American Family Association...I could go on) holds that your position on our existence is incorrect.

Organizations such as the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Sociological Association, American Pediatric Association...if I can dig out a few more, I'll post them, but let's just say that the *vast* majority of clinicians and people who have studied the subject over the past 40 years (ever since DSM-III removed sexual orientation from the classifications in 1973) have come to the conclusion that, while it might not be *fully* so, there *is* something inherent at work that is part of one's sexuality and one's sexual identity.

Smcc Student

I do not understand what you are saying. What does this have to do with breaking a contract?


"God didn't create homosexuality... It is a personal choice, yes God is perfect, he did create us. But he gave us free will. Indicating that it is your choice. God simply created us, he doesn't create our personal choices. "

That's the comment I'm responding to.

Smcc Student

You're responding to the wrong user.. I'm not "Panther Student". I have no idea who that is. But they made their account name almost identical to mine.


I don't hate the school, this is where the extent of you education ends, you have no wisdom beyond your high school education, and your lack of life experience to judge my comments, so please go back to instagram and leave it be.

Smcc Student

You think that you can belittle me because of the fact that you are older than me? After the last few days judging by the content of your comments I can tell you for sure, your ignorance and hatred by far outweighs your "experience" and "education" . Get off your high horse.

John Harville

I cannot speak for sugar. However my knowledge is not TOO superior - though I try not to end sentences with prepositions, especially unnecessary prepositions (I learned that in public school). And perhaps one of your St. Mary's educators can help you with the difference between 'complement' and 'compliment'.

Smcc Student

Thanks for pointing that out, I'll get some help from my English teacher tomorrow.

I don't think you can judge the school based off of one single student's spelling and sentences. After all, I'm not as smart as half of the students that walk through those halls.

The subject of government is my cup of tea.


but yet the catholic church will go to great lengths to hide their Pedifile priest by sending them off to other countries or churchs, but not fire them....grow up Catholics and stop using a beautiful religion as an excuse to be racist. Do they kick gay students out of the school too? O wait it's a private school so they would just deny them I forgot, part of the reason why a graduating class has maybe 50 students now if that in 15 years St. Mary's won't exist


Here's the petition I promised yesterday afternoon: (As mentioned before, as a former Willard HS student, I can't say I know Mr. Panetta, but as a fellow LGBT young-adult, I can say I stand in solidarity, and hope that we can open some eyes to these situations, as a reason for needing to pass the Equal Housing and Employment Act in Ohio, if not getting a full-fledged ENDA for the nation!)





Sorry if this has been addressed, but are the "the moral and religious teachings of the Catholic Church" spelled out specifically in the contracts that teachers sign?

Cody, here is another petition that is further along, you might want to sign this one, too:


Thanks for the heads-up on that :)

John Harville

"are the moral and religious teachings...."

Impossible. There are more than 9000 precepts in the Catechism that was fostered by Pope John Paul II (the protect-the-pedophiles saint-to-be) and his successor and chief hatchetman Ratzenberger aka Benedict.

One example to which one who signs such a contract:
The Church does NOT allow administration of drugs with an intent to hasten death.
The Church DOES allow administration of pain-killing drugs to bring comfort, even though there is the knowledge that such drugs in such doses could shorten natural life.
It is then a matter of 'intent' - as are most of the Church's "moral and religious teachings".
Just as there are two Acts of Contrition:
1. Act of Contrition: Being 'contrite' because one is afraid of hellfire and damnation. (Told by Mom to 'shake hands and say I'm sorry)
2. PERFECT Act of Contrition: Being 'truly contrite' because one's actions have caused pain or worse to another. This act is not 'perfected' until the sinner sincerely apologizes to and seeks forgiveness from the person/s wronged.
Interestingly, most Catholics cannot explain - or even know - this difference. Of course, most Catholic churches rarely offer personal reconciliation (confession) and years ago changed the Sacrament to 'Reconciliation'.

John Harville

2537 et seq in the Catechism states that homosexuals are allowed to be members of the church...


It's gone national, no turning back now. This man is so gracious he left his students words of love and encouragement on the white and black boards in their classroom. Class act, good luck to whomever tries to fill his shoes.


Happyfeet, I can't find the post but I was NOT referring to you.


Shame on St Mary's. Will there be a "stoning?"
Isn't it 2014 after all???


ThinkProgress just picked this article up! As sugar has mentioned, it looks like this has gone national! :)



John Harville

"Because Sandusky Central Catholic School is not funded by taxpayer dollars, it is not required to release personnel files or other documents to the Register."

Sandusky Catholic Schools recieve state and federal funding for lunch programs, reading specialists, a variety of supplemental programs as well as grants that REQUIRE their records to be open.
DOUBLE BULL. Sally Oberski gave you the Party Line about 'local decisions'. ALL EMPLOYEE CONTRACTS are with the Diocese and not the 'Local District' primarily because any labor disputes/legal action must be taken against the Diocese (case in point, a Clyde St. Mary's teacher who sued the Diocese - and won). Further case in point... the multi-million $$$ lawsuit 10 years ago in Toledo regarding Priests/teachers who allegedly molested several boys was filed against the Diocese even though the abuse happened within specific schools which failed to take action.
All items pertaining to this specific termination/resignation will be maintained in Toledo.
Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick is legal counsel for the Diocese. Might want to give them a call.


Update: Story has hit Washington, DC!