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


The General


The General

C'mon Jim can't you be a little more creative than hashing the ol' jail routine...dang?

God Of Thunder

I am ashamed to say that this is where I graduated from. It is sad to think that the catholic religion is still stuck in ancient beliefs, and this is why I no longer consider myself part of this downgrade to human nature.

It's pathetic to preach that god loves everyone but it's a mortal sin to love someone of the same sex or use birth control. Humans are humans, no matter who they love.


Perhaps coincidentally, many of us are also ashamed to say you graduated from SMCC.


How Christian of you, fluff...


God Of Thunder

Get over yourself.. I guess I'm ashamed to have past ties with those of you who condemn people for being normal human beings, great role models, but enjoy a lifestyle that you may not agree with... How godly of you...

The General

How about trying NOT being ashamed of an institution which has a DIFFERENT OPINION then YOU


Perhaps you could show me where they were condemned? I believe he was relieved of his duties because he has beliefs that lie outside of the TEACHINGS of the Church and thus the school he TEACHES at. I'm happy to help here if you need further clarification between dismissal and condemnation of lifestyle.

God Of Thunder

Well, you bunch of ostriches with your heads in the sand... Why don't you find out how the church feels about you, if you go against one of their beliefs. They more or less condemn you to hell, unless you go to their 'confession' and go to church every week to give them money, to pay off the families of kids that priests abused. But of course they don't 'relieve' the priests of their duties, do they???? Nope, ship them off else where and sweep it under the rug.


GoT is right, there have been many discrimination's from the loving community of SCCS, ask the long time pre-school director Mrs. Dwight who was kicked to the curb for no other reason than ???? no one ever offered a satisfactory explanation for that, how about Judy Monaghan, who too got the he ho, no good explanation there either. I could list even more egregious insults.Do not list "social justice" in your mission statement if you're not prepared to carry it out!


sugar..I was curious and clicked on the link you provided. It doesn't "exist" anymore..Hmmm


I was shocked to read that a few years back, an assistant football coach was fired after he was arrested by the Huron police for having sex with a student. The years go by, things never change, just different actors perpetuating the age-old cycle of abuse. Silence is the big enabler. Many of my classmates lost their faith and remember high school with pain. I really hope that Pope Francis can turn the church's sick soul inside out!

John Harville

What does a coach having sex with a student have to do with the instant story/discussion?


The take away from this story is that SMCC practices discrimination. There are other verses in the Bible that we no longer follow because we know they are untrue, written by Bronze Age people who had literally no understanding of the way the world works.

The Bible say we cannot eat meat with blood still in it (Leviticus 19:26), women cannot wear pants (Deuteronomy 22:5-9), cannot have tattoos (Leviticus 19:28) and that anyone who commits adultery or curses their parents should be put to death (Leviticus 20:9-10) and that rebellious sons and non-virgin brides should be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 21:18 and 22:20).

We ignore those verses for obvious reasons, the same reasons we should now ignore anti-homosexual verses. Because we now KNOW BETTER.


Bye bye.

The Answer Person

Melody Curtis should hang her head in shame. Obviously she has not been listening to what the new pope has been saying. Maybe she should be next to depart?
IMHO, I cannot understand why ANY self-respecting LGBT person would want to attend a church, sing in the St. Mary's Church choir or send their children to a school where people are despised and not wanted...makes no sense.


Dang, there goes the gigantic LGBT population at St. Mary's.

John Harville

MELODY CURTIS should study her Catholic Church history. Two decades ago she would not have BEEN a principal in a Catholic school... unless she was a nun.
Four decades ago a woman would not have been allowed on the Altar - except on Saturday morning to clean.
Girls have been allowed to be servers for only the last 30 years.
Catholics once committed venial sin by touching the Host with anything but the tongue.
Congregational singing only has been around about 45 years...the English Mass less than that.
Many of us remember when the Altar was on the back wall and the priest celebrated Mass with his back to the congregation...and the Altar railing was LOCKED?
And remember women pinning tissues and doiles to their hair because it was a sin to have female heads uncovered?
Yes Ms Melody should be very aware of how Church policy changes - and the days when MRS. Curtis NEVER would even have been allowed to teach in a Catholic school.


Yes, I so remember!

the unsilent majority's picture
the unsilent ma...

I believe in the right to get married for gay couples. I also believe that the church has a right to terminate anyone who they think doesnt live up to their moral standards. Im sure mr panetta knew what would happen once he announced his engagement. He chose love and family over his career. I applaud him for that. Flip it around and pretend you worked for a company who historically was opposed to heterosexual behavior and one day you suddenly said oh by the way im into women. Wouldnt you expect to be sent packing?

Pterocarya frax...

I basically agree with you that the church has a right to terminate those that do not "live up to their moral standards". They also have a right to keep watching members (tithers) leave to the point they no longer have a church.

Attitudes change, and unless the church changes (evolves), they will go extinct. People used to think slavery was ok. Who does now? People used to think women shouldn't vote. Who does now?...except for a few Republicans.

People used to think gay marriage was not okay. That attitude is quickly changing, and this decision to fire a great young teacher probably alienated many more young Catholic recruits.

As the number of Catholics continues to decline in many parts of the world, it sure appears that the theory of evolution applies to the Catholic Church (survival of the fittest).


Agree 100% with Pterocarya.


No...I think that logic is off. There is no such thing as a company who is opposed to heterosexual relationships. And no! I don't think people should have to worry about losing there jobs because of their relationships. The bible is a complicated and intricate text. How can the church pick and choose what they will act on based only on the political battle of the time? There is also a section that speaks about stoning a disobeying child.

John Harville

you mean the Catholic Church... where dating habits and desires of ANY employee was grounds for dismissal?

And then there's the female teacher at Bellevue ICS whose husband was filmed poking the hole in the middle of the picnic table on his back porch in view of an elementary school, arrested, convicted, sent to prison, and when released moved into the same house with his wife and chldren and was present when schoolchildren came to the house to play. He had been quite active in the school as a volunteer. Even after she brought him back home, she continued to teach because she was close friends with the principal (who chose to assign HER grandson to the other classroom).


Yes he was an employee of this newspaper and I believed he was terminated or forced to resign by the Sandusky Newspaper for violating a morals clause! I also believe the school was 500 yards away and the children in doors at the time.

The Church welcomes him because he has probably repented. Finally are you suggesting the Church should punish his wife and family for the sin of their husband and father?


This man was depraved, but he repented. Brian hasn.,t anything to repent for. What a twisted analogy babo


True repentance means he recognizes the error of his conduct and intends not to continue to commit the sin. Mr. Panetta on the other hand has made it very public that he will engage in homosexual conduct, a sin in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Answer Person

How ironic to be fired at Christmas...the time of Jesus's birth and a time of great joy for the Christian world...

Mr. Panetta, this is an opportunity for you to get out of here and go someplace where you will be properly compensated for your outstanding abilities and talents. If you stayed there, you would be trapped in this low-paying position forever. While this inexcusable treatment is at the moment personally demeaning and a hurtful low point for you, this will actually turn out to be a good thing for your career.


How ironic he was fired after he got engaged.
Sorry, but DUH!

Peninsula Pundit

Yes, he can go to work in the public school system where answer person and many others who support this fellow here will then characterize him as a lazy teacher with a bad union who is paid too much and gets too much pension, living off the taxpayer.
Best of Luck!