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.



Again, like I said: twenty years ago, *nobody* was in our corner. Equal marriage was at 20%, at best, having an LGBT teacher was probably not much higher, if that, and voting for an LGBT official was similar. So, even as hackneyed and as regressive and regrettable as it looks today, even a compromise that is clearly unconstitutional today was more than the alternative(s) that were available back then.

(I mean, back in the early-to-mid 1990s, we were still in the throes of the Moral Majority's values-push, and they had a disproportionate stranglehold on the levers of power for their size. It's how I always respond when people say that gays have some sort of "pull" in the legislature: how can we both be so strong as to effect legislation, but so weak as to still not even be able to get protection as with other minority classes?)


20 years ago there was and still a party that is for everyones equal rights. Why vote for a party that has put the LGBT community's rights on hold for political expediency? That's voting against your own freedoms. There are more than two parties, Might want to start checking into them.
People say i throw away my vote by voting third party, I vote third party (Always have)to break this revolving door of the two parties dictating what rights the people have, ALL of the people.


I *almost*, ALMOST voted for Gary Johnson or Jon Huntsman last election cycle...

I read *plenty* about 3rd-party candidates, and loved what Huntsman was having to say about issues...

But, with how Ohio is? I wasn't gonna take a chance.


A chance at what? One party that wants to dictate to you who you can marry and who you cannot or the other party who wants to dictate to you who can marry and who you cannot? One has proven it does not like civil rights for the LGBT and the other has done the same for the sake of political expediency. I'm sorry, If you do not feel strongly enough about your rights to buck the trend and vote for those who have proven they are for citizens rights and less encroachment then you must reserve the complaining till you do. Face it you put a party in front of your own rights. You in essence approve of them playing with your god given rights to love and marry who you want by relecting them time after time after time. You do realize people call others sheep because they stick with the herd instead of standing out for themselves.


A protest vote, in my mind, is one that is a waste for the sake of one's own peace of mind. And admit it, voting outside the two-party system in a national election, in this current age, is nothing more than a protest vote.

And I don't accept protest votes. You might *feel* better about it when you go to sleep, but it's not going to effect any legislation any time soon.


And that's the reason you have no right to complain when you lose your rights. Maybe if the LGBT community banded together and quit voting in the same two parties 20 years ago DOMA would have never been signed and they would be treated as equal citizens without having to fight tooth and nail for their constitutional rights that are already guaranteed. Thats the problem with people these days, They are afraid to buck the norm with the excuse "It will not make a difference". Every vote counts is what they say, Guess you and alot of others have not got that memo.


"voting outside the two-party system in a national election, in this current age, is nothing more than a protest vote."

And that is an excellent example of a self-fulfilling prophesy. If everyone who was dissatisfied with what the two factions of the single bi-factional ruling party had to offer and who thought like you do could muster the courage to actually vote their conscience, instead of gaming their vote to try and elect the lesser evil, the two party system would break wide open.

Cthulhu for president - why vote for the LESSER evil?


Wow, Harville, you're just FULL of false facts today. The Republicans never had a veto-proof majority during Clinton's tenure.

Honestly, do you just pull this stuff out of your backside to suit the moment?

John Harville

Yeah... confirms your statement - those Dixiecrats were were the Democrats who fought the 13th Amendment... and the Congressmen who referred to the 16th president as "Abrahamus Afrianus".
You failed to mention Conservative Dems fought Social Security
Please, read some history.


I still wonder if ALL the other "SINS" are being fired also....oh, sorry forced into resignation. You know, the adulterers, divorcees, birth control users, pre marital sex partners. What about the teens that commit such sins? Are they forced to leave school?

John Harville

You mean all those teens masturbating away... or the heavy petters... or the ones with the tattoos?


Bye, bye Mr. Panetta and your wife..err husband..time to move on!!


That's just a bit misogynistic, y'know?

John Harville

You need that t-shirt that says I Am A Bigot.

You know, the one with the snake?


These lyrics are by maklemore. The song is called same love. People need to read this. What is this teachin our children?? To be in the closet to get a job. How fair is that? I feel bad for our future children if this nonsense goes on. EQUAL LOVE FOR ALL

When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay, 'Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight. I told my mom, tears rushing down my face She's like "Ben you've loved girls since before pre-k, trippin' " Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn't she? Bunch of stereotypes all in my head. I remember doing the math like, "Yeah, I'm good at little league" A preconceived idea of what it all meant For those that liked the same sex Had the characteristics The right wing conservatives think it's a decision And you can be cured with some treatment and religion Man-made rewiring of a predisposition Playing God, aw nah here we go America the brave still fears what we don't know And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago

If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me Have you read the YouTube comments lately? "Man, that's gay" gets dropped on the daily We become so numb to what we're saying A culture founded from oppression Yet we don't have acceptance for 'em Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it Gay is synonymous with the lesser It's the same hate that's caused wars from religion Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins It's human rights for everybody, there is no difference! Live on and be yourself When I was at church they taught me something else If you preach hate at the service those words aren't anointed That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen I might not be the same, but that's not important No freedom till we're equal, damn right I support it

We press play, don't press pause Progress, march on With the veil over our eyes We turn our back on the cause Till the day that my uncles can be united by law When kids are walking 'round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are And a certificate on paper isn't gonna solve it all But it's a damn good place to start No law is gonna change us We have to change us Whatever God you believe in We come from the same one Strip away the fear
Underneath it's all the same love About time that we raised up..


That's great big bird that you get your morals and values from the rapper Macklemore. I guess if Macklemore says it's ok then it's ok.


+ 1. That's why this country is so messed up, you got bigbird believing in rapper, others think if Oprah said it its gospel, or Dr oz, Dr Phil, Dr j, or even Dr pepper ! Everybody just believes what makes them feel good, what best suites them and their lifestyle


It's called "at least the ideas are getting promulgated to the culture at-large, instead of being swept back into the closet."

I don't really listen to new-type music, being a fan of 70s prog myself, but if we can get some modern-day straight allies to help with the fight for equality? Alls the better!

John Harville

Like your worship at the altars of Bill O'Riley, Shorn Manatee, Glenn Beck, Pat Robertson, Phil Roberston, FAUX News, et al?


For what it's worth, the Methodists are not beyond this kind of problem either.

God Of Thunder

Oh give me a break everyone...How did this turn into a liberal/conservative argument. Get off of it... This has nothing to do with politics, it has to do with the catholic church and their forever lasting double standards. It has nothing to do with politics...Here is my feeling....

I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I am an AMERICAN and I want my country back!!!!


The problem is that many of the hard-right groups have co-opted these social wedge issues as a way of vote-getting-out. I've been following, ThinkProgress, Advocate, and other LGBT blogs, and the number of "family values organizations" that the major conservative talkers have decided to hitch their wagons to is quite stunning.

In fact, two days ago, GoodAsYou reported that, in a few weeks, Rand Paul is going to be at the American Principles Project's big gala as a headlining speaker (APP is a spin-off of Maggie Gallagher's National Organization for Marriage). That's why it's apt to, in some ways, make this a left-right issue: the left-ish and and left groups are fighting back after about 40 years of legislative beatings by social "values" groups.


This young man showed more Christlike behavior in his 5 years with SCCS to the Catholic community here than I have ever witnessed. I am a Conservative, we are not all bigots, meeting Brian caused an awakening in me, of love and acceptance. The Catholic church is dying, they can't fill their Rectories with priests, their schools with nuns their churches with people, not because the world had gone "bad" or San Francisco as one said here because it cannot show the love and tolerance it demands we give it.


Sugar, I have been reading your posts on all the different articles concerning this issue, you call for the head person to be fired for lying, you want Brian back ( who was lying ) you think you have a great say cause you pay pay tuition so your child can get a "good catholic education" .. You yourself had a catholic education, then you turn around and tell top cop to drop dead ?? Your conservative but you want an openly gay person teaching at your catholic school which is against their beliefs ( never should have hired him) so the catholic church is dying, can't fill rectories, or your school, so your suggestion is to lower the standards and beliefs to get more people to come ? So Brian is a good guy and gay, there are a lot of nice people who are alcoholics, do drugs, sleep around, steal, etc..... Point being, its still not right. And yes I do believe that the world has gone bad because so many people, places, churches, schools, want to try and please everyone and not upset people cause they might get mad.


Do you really want to engage "sugar"? That's a rabbit hole in Wonderland best left unexplored. Oh sure, I'd buy him/her a delicious gyro at the gyro cart, but based on what I've read the past few days there is no reason to engage in adult conversation.

Gyro Cart Guy

GCF, let's all agree to leave the Gyro Cart out of this. My philosophy regarding the succulent roasted lamb meat has always been "Don't ask, don't smell."

I always find myself fighting with you in these comments. For two people who share a love of cucumber sauce, we need to find common ground.


See, there's the issue. I'm more enthralled with the warm, succulent pita bread and you're a cuke sauce "Guy". It's like cats and dogs living together. Never going to happen.

How about this....we meet at the cart some warm spring day, get our gyros and reminisce about the old days of downtown when a man could get a 10 cent candy bar at Jupiter and then walk across the street and be treated to one of the finest haberdasheries this side of London and Joseph Merrick.


Sounds almost erotic you two have a thing for each other???


Sounds like somebody has some "sugar" for gyrocartfluffikins. You can't get enough of me, can you? Go ahead and admit it. It's OK. I'm used to it.

But I have to tell you, it seems you have an issue with erotic relationships based on your statement. You should be more Christian in your responses so as to not appear to be a hypocrite. If not, you can't roll with gyrocartfluffikins.


Can't spin it, you lose. It's like swatting flies. Save your feigned outrage at my "unchristian" like responses for the Gathering space, or the multi-purpose room.