Catholic Church has school's back on firing

Sandusky Central Catholic School's forced resignation gains national attention, outraged alumnus creates blog to follow story.
Alissa Widman Neese
Jan 13, 2014

The Catholic Church broke tradition Monday, releasing an official statement in support of a band and choir director's recent departure from Sandusky Central Catholic School.

Meanwhile, a group of outraged alumni are assembling on a blog and social media, expressing support and aiming to springboard the story to national media outlets.

Brian Panetta, who was in his fifth year of employment with Sandusky Central Catholic School, was forced to resign this past week after announcing plans to pursue a gay marriage next year.

He initially received an unsigned letter of termination indicating he was fired, but school officials and representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, which oversees the school, later agreed he could resign.

Click here for all Register coverage of this story.

Panetta, who identifies as Catholic, plans to marry his fiancé in July 2015.

A newly created blog,, is advocating for Panetta's rehire. It also links to a petition, which netted more than 200 signatures and supportive comments in its first day.

"Everyone loved him, even people who aren't in favor of gay marriage, because they loved him as a person and a teacher," said alumnus Fred Staffeld, who is managing the new blog from Washington D.C. "We're outraged by the hypocrisy. Instead of firing others who are breaking rules, they only fired somebody who was just upfront and honest about who he is."

Staffeld graduated from St. Mary Central Catholic High School in 1982, during what he calls the "glory days" of band, when John Kustec, now a Perkins Schools employee, was his director.

Panetta reminded Staffeld of a young Kustec, because he ignited passion in his students and more than doubled the once dwindling band's size.

When Staffeld received mixed messages about who was responsible for Panetta's abrupt resignation, and later learned the truth, he felt inspired to take action, he said.

"I've received some angry messages about creating a circus of this," Staffeld said. "If this school didn't want a circus, it shouldn't have discriminated in 2014. It's going to create a firestorm."

The story has since picked up national attention, most recently being featured on and LGBTQ Nation, two of the world's largest websites for gay rights news.

Panetta issued a public statement about the matter Friday, which permitted the Catholic Diocese of Toledo to respond today, according to its statement. The diocese typically doesn't comment on personnel matters, in order to protect individuals, it said.

"In light of the Church's clear teaching on sacred marriage and the fact that Mr. Panetta himself has publicly indicated his marriage plans are contrary to Church teachings and are the issue at the heart of this matter, the leadership of Sandusky Central Catholic School properly determined that his employment could not continue," the diocese stated. 

"When Sandusky Central Catholic School informed the diocese of the situation, the diocese fully concurred it was the correct decision and in keeping with the terms of his teacher-minister contract," it concluded.

Click here to read the full statement.

The statement offers little, if any, new insight, as the diocese's spokeswoman offered a brief comment this past week, in which she also stated Panetta's forced resignation was a "local decision," and the diocese only offered consultation.

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

After he became engaged on Christmas Day, Panetta told school principal Melody Curtis about his wedding plans, anticipating the pair would agree an end-of-the-year resignation would be the most appropriate way to ensure no conflicts resulted. He received his letter of termination later that night.

His five-year relationship with his now-fiancé, Nathan David, was not a secret, as David often attended school events and met several students and their families, Panetta said.

Panetta has no plans to take any legal action against Sandusky Central Catholic School.

He cares deeply for the school, its faculty and its students, and only wants to perpetuate the truth about why he can no longer teach them, he said.

He is currently a graduate student at Bowling Green State University. He plans to graduate in May and seek employment elsewhere, possibly near his hometown in North Carolina, or David's hometown in Illinois.

Sandusky Central Catholic School issued a news release this past week about the matter, simply stating Panetta had resigned. It also provided a link to Panetta's statement, in which he called himself a "proud and gay Catholic."


Other Catholic school firings circulate in national media

Sandusky Central Catholic School's forced resignation of its gay band and choir director addresses a hot-button issue constantly circulating in national media.

On Friday, the same day Panetta issued a statement about his resignation, Michael Griffin, a gay teacher at a Catholic school in Pennsylvania, was fired after filing for a marriage license with his partner. 

The pair had a civil union and the teacher wore a ring, and as with Panetta, school administrators knew he was gay. 

Their relationship didn't become a problem until Griffin emailed school administrators about his marriage license, which they interpreted as a public statement.

Earlier this month, Mark Zmuda, a gay vice principal in Washington, was also fired for marrying his partner. School officials suggested Zmuda get a divorce to keep his job, but he rejected the idea, he said.

Students have rallied in support of Zmuda and actively protested his departure, staging a sit-in and then walking out in solidarity, effectively shutting down their school. They have also rallied a social media campaign and crafted an online petition with now more than 32,000 signatures.

The most prominent firing case in Ohio involved a Catholic school in Columbus, whose officials fired lesbian teacher Carla Hale for listing her female partner in her mother's obituary in The Columbus Dispatch this past year.



I think everyone wishes the new band director well. He just needs to let the band kids process all that has happened. Mourn.

John Harville

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for ‘God is Charity’ (1 Jn 4:8).” -St. Albert the Great


By the way, speaking of double standards, the leftists condemning the Catholic Church for its position are pretty much the same people who want this country to bend over backwards to avoid offending Muslims, who not only would have refused to hire him in the first place, but would, in any country where they had the leeway to do so, have stoned him.

Then there's BYU, which pulled a student's football scholarship for sleeping with his girlfriend - where's your outrage over that? Harville, a BYU chemical engineering professor was recently awarded $975,000 in research funding by the federal government - better grab your protest placard and hightail it to Salt Lake City.

John Harville

BTW Nemesis, speaking of never letting the truth get in the way of making a point:
BYU suspended a BASKETBALL player for the final three games of the 2011 season for sleeping with his girlfriend. They didn't pull a scholarship. In fact he travelled with the team, sat on the bench in a suit, and made the trip to conference championship and NCAA tournament appearances.
Read your point... the scholarship was awarded to a PROFESSOR, not to BYU.


Distinction without a difference. He was discriminatorily excluded on tha basis of his engaging in Constitutionally protected conduct.

When research grants are awarded to professors, the majority of the money actually goes to their academic department. Equipment purchased with the money is the property of the university.

Dance all you want, but there are other institutions getting government money directly whose comparable conduct you are ignoring.


I am a Conservative, I abhor bigotry and hypocrisy, a basic tenet of true Conservatism. Now about those vouchers that do not exist, Ohio allows 60k vouchers a year under the EdChoice program. Busing, under Ohio law each district is required to bus all elementary students 30 min away from the school they attend, although each district can form it's own policy. Than there is Title 1, school lunches, and IEP although these are services directly going to the student, the private school directly benefits from the funding, as they cannot offer the services without the help of state and fed funding. The government does not produce money so in order to redistribute the money it first must take it from the private sector in the forms of fees, fines, taxes etc.


None of the public schools in this area are failing sufficiently to trigger voucher eligibility. Bus transportation is a service to STUDENTS. The school does not benefit from IEP, etc. funding - it comes in the form of a public school employee rendering services to the students. If these services were not available in this manner then the students would just have to go off campus to avail themselves.


LOL poor nemesis repeating the refuted statement does not look better the 2nd time. If a public school building was closing that made a child eligible, if the child has an IEP they are eligible, if a child had autism they are eligible if a child moved from a failing district to one that was not failing they could renew their scholarship. Does that help? For the rest of your prattle, I say At taxpayer expense. At taxpayer expense. Quit spinning. They cannot pay for it so they must go to the state or fed government to get the services at taxpayer expense.


This is not a difficult answer, Band director took a job in a bible base school that Does not believe in men with men. Parents that send their children there do so for the same reason [ not the only reason ]. Parents spend a lot of money to make that happen. I do not care if he is gay but I am not going to hire a person that is going to go against the people that are paying money for a different enviroment.I opened myself to its about the money and peoples rights but I believe when he took the job he knew he did not believe in the schools views, Sounds like a nice guy that picked the wrong school. Good luck to you

John Harville

Protestant teacher in second marriage after divorce in first... thus living in adultery according to Catholic values... knew the school's policy. The person who hired the teacher and the others who work with the teacher knew/know about this. So now if they choose to fire said teacher because the parents who pay for their kids to go to SCCS don't want to 'spend a lot of money" to have their children thinking divorce and adultery are Christian/Catholic? Children learn what they live.
We know what pedophile priests have done to enrollments and Church attendance/membership. Just look at the 'new' plan for education at SCCS, Bishop Hoffman Schools, Calvert Catholic Schools and Melody Curtis' own Monroe Catholic Elementary School.
Or Clyde St. Mary's which kept the upper grades open for one eighth grader, then went K-5, and then closed.
All have been forced to close schools, reorganize under the guise of trying 'a new plan', consolidate grades into buildings to have sufficient children in classrooms... Hire a 'President' to 'manage the operations of the schools'. How's THAT workin' out for you.
"It's all about an equitable and efficient allocation of resources"
...and life in the SCCS edition of "Harper Valley PTA".
The economics of the whole matter IS the whole matter.


Since the teacher's first marriage wasn't solemnized by a priest, there's no conflict.

The primary reason many Catholic schools are closing is that Catholics are having fewer children, just like the reason many public schools are closing is that Americans are having fewer children. Baby boom school supply meets post baby boom demand.

Ned Mandingo

I love when i read "catholic values" lol

John Harville

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for ‘God is Charity’ (1 Jn 4:8).” -St. Albert the Great


Wait till all the young gay people today, start running into age discrimination.

John Harville

Wait till all the young straight bigots today start running into age discrimination.

and wait until the administration discovers the employee who C/Cs into the school.

John Harville

ABOUT PUBLIC FUNDS... From State Rep Denise Dreihous:
"When the (state) budget process started, I met with parochial school principals as well as the legislative liaison for the Catholic Conference to better understand the importance of STATE FUNDING for Catholic Schools. I was able to add language to the House version of the budget to raise the cap on the ADMINISTRATIVE COST REIMBUREMENT line item so the funds in this line could be accessed by the Catholic Schools."
Translation: Catholic schools can use state money to pay administrative costs like, maybe, a President?
Someone should ask to see the SCCS budgets - at least the portion reimbursed by STATE FUNDS.


No, to pay administrative costs arising from delivering certain mandated services to students.

John Harville

EUTHENASIA: For those/him/her who said I favor Euthanasia I offer the following from the Catechism.

"The natural law and the Fifth Commandment requires that all ordinary means be used to preserve life, such as food, water, exercise, and medical care. Since the middle ages, however, Catholic theologians have recognized that human beings are not morally obligated to undergo every possible medical treatment to save their lives. Treatments that are unduly burdensome or sorrowful to a particular patient, such as amputation, or beyond the economic means of the person, or which only prolong the suffering of a dying person, are morally extraordinary, meaning they are not morally obligatory in a particular case. Medical means may be medically ordinary, but yet morally extraordinary."

It would seem some among us - or perhaps only me - is familiar with the Catechism and the manner in which the Church for centuries has left itself 'wiggle room' on a variety of moral issues.


What's your point? First of all, what you cite has nothing to do with euthanasia, which is intentionally bringing about death out of ostensibly humanitarian motives. That's different from not taking extraordinary measures to prolong life.

John Harville

“The Church’s social teaching proposes principles for reflection; it provides criteria for judgment; it gives guidelines for action” (CCC 2423).


According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholic social teaching is “the teaching (social doctrine) of the Church on the truth of revelation about human dignity, human solidarity, and the principles of justice and peace; the moral judgments about economic and social matters required by such truth and about the demands of justice and peace”

It seems the Church has guidelines on how its employees/representatives are to counsel and work with employees who the 'Church' representative believes need to be 'outsourced'. How unfortunate Mrs. Curtis didn't study this aspect of the CCC.

More and more it is appearing Mr Panetta is the ONLY person who acted completely within the guidelines set out by the Church.

John Harville


“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. BUT WHERE CHARITY IS NOT FOUND, GOD CANNOT DWELL. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for ‘God is Charity’ (1 Jn 4:8).” -St. Albert the Great

John Harville

About public funds in the SCCS budget... look it up for yourself on the website, click on Foundation.

Funding - as percent of total INCOME budget:
Parish Funding...23% $993,100
STATE FUNDING (as reported in the pie chart) 13% $566,579

Spending - as part of total expenditures
COMPENSATION... 68% $3.01 million

SCCS lists STATE FUNDING as part of its budget.
A state representative talked with Catholic Schools representatives about how to put STATE TAX DOLLARS FOR CATHOLIC SCHOOLS in the state budget.
SCCS budgets state funds.
The STATE builds into the STATE budget TAXPAYER DOLLARS for "private schools".
Portions of those tax dollars are part of the SCCS BUDGET that pays more than $3 million in compensation to employees.
Under Ohio law ANY agency which receives state funds is subject to Sunshine Laws and transparency. The fact SCCS and the Diocese released a portion of the employee contract automatically makes the employee contract generally a matter of public record.

SANDUSKY REGISTER... please do your job and hold SCCS accountable.


Funds that are pass through to served students are not funding to the institution, but they still must be accounted in the budget.

Personally, I'd like to close the public schools and just give every child in the state, but under current Ohio law, none of what you're talking about matters - the state does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of orientation, and this is an employment at will state.

John Harville

EVERY DONOR, by name, to SCCS is listed in the annual report on the SCCS website. Hundreds of donors are listed. Some may soon be receiving letters concerning this issue.

Perhaps opinions/support should be expressed to the
Central Catholic School
Board of Directors

•DR.CRAIG TYLER* - Chair of the Board
•Dr. Lou Ralofsky - Vice Chair of the Board
•Mrs. Tamara Humphrey - Secretary of the Board
•Mr. Chris Knight - Superintendent of Diocese of Toledo
•Rev. Joseph Steinbauer - Pastor, Catholic Parishes of Sandusky
•Mrs. Melody Curtis - President of Sandusky Central Catholic School
•Mr. Mike Savona - Head Academic Officer of Sandusky Central Catholic School


•Mr. David Harrison

•Mr. Kenneth Berlin

•Mrs. Mary Murphy

•Dr. Robert Kaftan

•Mr. Duffield Milkie

•Mr. Bryan Kasper, Education Foundation Representative

Drs Bryan and Dudenhoefer chaired the search committee that brought Mrs. Curtis to SCCS.


You've been making a lot of noise with very little point. What would you like them to actually do?

Ned Mandingo

It is useless to argue with Catholics who believe they are normal people. The people who judge this guy are doing so based on fairy tails. Your religion is a scam and those that believe it are brainwashed sheeple.
How insecure are you people that you feel your "values" are threatened buy this guy being gay. I done know him but I would bet that he is a better person the those that are judging him. He is better off not working there, catholic schools usually pay about half the salaries of normal schools.
It would be funny when he sues them and settles out of court with the creeps in Toledo he donates some of the money to a gay rights charity.

Ned Mandingo

Who was the first person to be born on dec. 25th, died for three day, rose again, had 12 followers, three wise men?
Jesus? Nope the Egyptian god Horus about 5, 000 years ago. Jesus follows over 20 sons of god in history with the same story.
It's a old astrology story that comes from pagans.


John- vigorous oversight by the board is needed. Now, if the board is full of "yes" people --well, nothing will change. When the Carla Hale scandal broke out in Columbus, many in the Bishop Watterson community thought it was a good thing and actually did not mind the bad press. However I believe that the school got in trouble with the City of Columbus, as there is a city ordinance prohibiting this kind of thing.



Now I have a simple question, are you crazy? You are right on one account this is bigger than SCCS, if you want to be angry go write a letter to the editor at the Toledo Blade, today he wrote a scathing opinion piece about the matter. Does not put the school in a positive light, but than neither are you. I would suggest some anger management, because I plan to post here and on other threads that may come on the issue because I can.


You didn't answer my question.