St. Mary band director fired for gay wedding plans

(UPDATED WITH FULL STORY)
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

Comments

PirateBacker1975

Best of luck to you, Brian. You are truly a class act. Both my daughter and I feel blessed to call you a friend.

8ballinthesidepocket

This could get interesting! Wonder what his employment contract said with regard to following the Catholic moral code? Unfortunately, religions of all denominatios and faiths are resposible for more wars and killings than anything else. And a pure case of the pot calling the kettle black! Good luck SMCC i see a big lawsuit in the making!!

2grandkids

No lawsuit, he signs a contract and this is included in that contract.

John Harville

You assume the contract itself is legal. Probably won't stand scrutiny.

Babo

So where are all the homosexual lawyers willing to take his case for free?

sugar

How do you know he had had no offers, you obviously have the internet, AP now has the story, hmmmmmm

The Bizness

This is why I dont go to church, I really hope Pope Francis changes the way things are done.

gyrocartfluffikins

Well, this and the fact that you're too lazy to get out of bed.

The Bizness

Not at all, I get up bright and early to workout

joanneberardi

I just read a post that said not going to church because of hypocrites is like not going to the gym because of out of shape people. Makes one think!!

Peninsula Pundit

+1 joanne and gyro.

The Bizness

It does? I never mentioned anything about hypocrisy, I don't go because I do not agree with these sorts of actions.

gyrocartfluffikins

Well this and the fact that you're too lazy to get out of bed.

The Bizness

yeah, I am lazy because I get up early and work out. You make tons of sense.

JMOP

@the Bizness

Pope Francis can't change what's written in the bible. That's why he is The pope.

For the people that say times have changed, The Lord and his word stand the test of time. No amount of time can take away the truth.

The Bizness

What about that treat thy neighbor section? Btw most parts the bible that people quote from the bible referring to this subject are often taken out of context according to scholars.

timary

Wow what a class act this young man is. Hopefully he will find a school system who welcomes him for who he is and what he can offer them.

If all staff at SMCC were to be judged by how they live as compared to the teachings of the church I believe there would be quite a few job openings at good old SMCC.

2grandkids

Agree!!

Northstar

AGREE!!!!

Raoul Duke

Who are all of you people and what have you done with the Sandusky Register readers?

God Of Thunder

????????????????????

Pterocarya frax...

Now that is hardcore funny!

cody6202000

They're starting to show up now...they don't usually stay up as late as when this article was posted :)

The General

If they were up your @$$ you'd know jimmy...show me the love sweet cakes.

Smcc Student

Evening everyone,

as I read some of these comments I really do not find it surprising that many of you, including alums are very upset. Mr. Panetta built our music program up from nothing, and sadly is being forced to leave at the peak of his success.

To clear a few things up..

1. St. Mary's was forced to let him go. In his contract he was well aware that if he were to pursue an engagement in same sex marriage he would be let go. When he told Mrs. Curtis about his engagement, she had no choice. She was only doing her job. It was not her decision to fire Mr. Panetta, it was the Toledo Diocese. It is simply not right to blame Mrs. Curtis for letting him go. She did not do a thing wrong, and it is a shame to see what some people are saying of her.

2. I do not know ONE person, whether it be faculty or student, who did not accept or welcome Mr. Panetta. All of the ignorant comments above claiming that SMCC despises or does not want Mr. Panetta are outright ridiculous. We all loved Mr. Panetta regardless of his life choices. That is what the Catholic faith calls us to do. Love your brothers and sisters.

Finally, It is unfair to blame the school and Mrs. Curtis. So many of you are so quick to jump on my school for things you disagree with. You must understand, this is not SMCC's fault. And most importantly, my school does not hate homosexuals.

sandman312

So you think it was a "life choice" and not who he was...?

Yes you are right, the catholic church teaches love your brothers and sisters. You left out the part about not treating them with dignity...

Smcc Student

I understand how you may have thought I was referring to homosexuality. I was referring to the choice of accepting the engagement. Also, this is a really touchy subject and I don't feel like getting into an argument on a message board under my school's name about "how someone becomes homosexual". I have no authority to answer that question.

Peninsula Pundit

You're a smart kid.

Smcc Student

Thanks

Dcfred20036

Hey SMCC student, maybe you should be running the school. With this terrible incident, the reputation of the school is ruined. Come here to Washington and try to get a job in public service and a simple google search will show that you attended a school that promoted bigotry and discrimination. This story is going viral and there is no way to stop it. Be on the right side of history. Drinking from separate fountains sounds ridiculous now, don't you think? I wish you luck. But do not stew in hate and intolerance: there is a world beyond Sandusky.

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