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.



The simple fact that your last statement there was a sorry attempt to belittle not one STUDENT but the entire STUDENT body tells me a lot about your character. I also don't think you're giving enough credit the the young minds in America who, by the way, will be running the country in the not-so-distant future. Assuming you're an adult, please act like one.


Now that's a funny post, are you always that uptight and serious, chill out.


It's funny that we're on the same side of this, since I'm about as curmudgeonly a 26-year-old leftist as there is in this area, and have to put up with a family who worships at the altars of Mark Levin and Glenn! :)

Strange bedfellows and all...


Can't forget Rush! When somebody I care about gets hurt I can be a pitbull.


You confused me for about 3 seconds until I re-read my post, since the Boys from Canada are my favorite musical group (and, it's caused a bit of confusion when I say something about 'em on my FB feed)! Lol!

John Harville

SMCC STUDENT... It's good to know Panther Dynasty is alive and flailing.

There is no hatred toward your school, students, religion (properly named since there is little evidence of faith).

There is expressed here in so many ways sadness that your President-Principal did not consider the profound effect her actions would have on said students, school and religion.

I will play the 'youth card' for you and give you great latitude for daring to comment on matters of which you have no understanding. I taught students like you who are so full of religious zeal but have little knowledge of your faith.
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the assurance of things not seen".. Chapter 11:1 of Paul's Letter to the Hebrews.
You really need to examine your Faith, that inner voice of Jesus speaking to your heart - not the profane words of a teacher or principal or parent - and especially not me.
I know what I believe, what Jesus shares with me daily, and I know Jesus NEVER would condone the actions of your President-Principal which have brought hurt and anguish - and pledges to withhold funding - on your school.
"this is my commandment. I command you to love one another as I have loved you." That would be Jesus's ONLY commandment to us.

So I ask... where is YOUR love?

Smcc Student

Agree to disagree. Our church is against the marrying, and sexual acts of homosexuals. Millions of others are for homosexuals being married. Nobody is going to change anyone's mind. We live in a great country where we are able to agree and disagree with each others opinions. The school did nothing illegal and based their decisions off of the church's teachings. If you have a problem with the actions taken by the diocese, whining over online message boards is not going to help you succeed in the war that the majority of the commentators on here are fighting with the Catholic Church. Write a letter to the diocese. Bashing Catholics is not going to get you anywhere.

John Harville

Way ahead of ya, kid. Already wrote my letter to the Diocese - and the Pope.
"..based their decisions off of the church's teachings.."
Exactly where is this position listed in the Catechism (careful... reading the words of a Confirmation teacher here)? The Catechism teaches against fornication (any act of sexual gratification outside holy matrimony) which includes masturbation, oral gratification, manipulation, petting to orgasm, pedophilia, etc.
And did you learn your poor grammar and punctuation at SMCC? (and no, you can't blame auto-correct).


You taunted a kid? Internet tough guy.

You really need to take a break. Have a gyro.


Says the "tough guy" who harassed a woman all day. More hypocrisy, it's quite nauseating.


There's a woman on here? Who is it?


Dang fikins !!! Every time you post a comment I get hungry !


Student this is exactly what this board is made for. If the comments are upsetting to you don't read them.


Student: Way to stand up and voice your opinion. You're entitled to it just as much as anyone else here. I'm sure your parents are proud to have a child who defends their personal beliefs, school, and community.


Doesn't Perkins have enough of it's own issues? Clean up your own back yard first. Student better toughen up, it's a big ugly world out here.


Student seems to be doing just well. His/her faith will serve well in the "big ugly" world.


Only if he/she or anyone in his/her family aren't gay.


Boy I can hear the gasps, and see the heads shaking at your every post. I really feel you should be the spokes person for the city of Sandusky's catholic churches and schools !! You just keep sinking lower and lower, I can only hope that your child is a friend of the smcc student, so he/she can have a positive role model in their life


In order for your comment, lame I might add, to have any meaning you would have to assume that I gives a rats a** about what others in the community think about me. I exist on a much higher level then that. Try to elevate yourself. Honestly all 3 of you, 1330,and gyro really should be looking to your significant others for entertainment and not me. Quit engaging me, I will no longer respond.


No longer respond ? There's an example of answered prayer.

Smcc Student


John Harville

I do hope you see this.

Our church is against any act of unchastity - which include sexual acts of any nature outside the bonds of marriage in the Church.

But before any of this began - long before - your school and church hired people who do not meet the standards. Non-Catholic teachers are not married within the bounds of the Church and do not subscribe to the Church's rules against contraception. Still others cohabit, attend baptisms of children conceived in surrogacy or in-vitro... you even have a couple of priests within the Sandusky community who baptized such children of 'properly' wed Catholic parents.
You're right about the whining... that's why I went to the Diocese with my concerns and complaints - as have several others.

John Harville

The Catholic Church has the back.... of all those pedophile priests.

Donald Szpozors's picture
Donald Szpozors

I breathe a great sigh of disgust when I read these ignorant, backwards comments. Sandusky continues to be shaming and moralistic as ever. We have to continue to have these LGBT, civil & equal rights discussions because its pointedly obvious how much we still must grow if we want to be a proactive and progressive Ohio community!

It is essential that we actively have these conversations or you'll continue to hear disgusting, vile comments like those previously posted here - "Will it be men in thongs sporting sex toys - and women completely naked walking the streets like in San Fran? Will it be open sex acts during LGBT parades like in San Fran?..Your little dream world is one of total debauchery."

Ignorant comments like those are ones that are blatantly false, damning, slanderous, and promote negative stereotypes.

This young teacher clearly proved that LGBTs can be healthy, functioning and very successful contributors to your community and our youth! He has proven his skill beyond measure how he drastically changed the arts programs into a vital, living, positive and impactful thing!

And finally, I must echo previous statements that compared the neighboring community of Fremont. As a longtime resident of Sandusky who works in Fremont, these observations of 'closet cases' are 100% true! I have met beyond compare, many married & engaged men at work and social functions who identify as straight, but 'behind closed doors' are different people- traveling to the nearest gay bars and LGBT functions in Sandusky or Toledo. Their biggest fears? Their church and their religious background/history. So wives, you may want to pry open those closet doors. Check the cell phone history. Check the Internet. See where he sneaks out to! Fremont and Sandusky is full of closet cases. And sadly, in many situations- they fear what religion has instilled in them.

True Blue

I can't believe they'll let a good teacher go, but other people go unnoticed, even when they are told, until they retire. Shame, Shame, Shame.


SR, you have done an outstanding job of fabricating (yet again) your own story. Mr. Panetta signed a contract. When the contract was breached, he was offered the opportunity to resign, which he willingly accepted as he understand the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Church has backed SCCS and Mr. Panetta has gone on his own way. The only reason this is even a story is because YOU, the media, have turned it into one.

Like it or not, readers, Mr. Panetta is not coming back to SCCS and nothing you do will make the Church change its teachings on homosexual activity. Instead of chastising SCCS and the Church, why not encourage local or non-local schools to hire Mr. Panetta? (Granted, I'm aware some of you have done just that.) He clearly has a gift for the arts and is a well-loved and respected teacher that any school would be lucky to employ. He will do just fine outside of SCCS.

John Harville

MEANWHILE... YOUR assistant band director was ready and waiting in the wings to ADD SCCS Band/music to his portfolio. It almost seems it was pre-arranged. He must have friends in good places.

We all just hope he is squeaky clean enough to survive.

Panther Student

As a current student at SMCC, I'd like to offer my perspective... The past few days of school have sucked, to put it blatantly. The student body has seen the comments on here, and it hurts. You people are angry at the admins and the Church... but who does this hurt the most? We scroll through these comments and see people picking our school apart... tearing it down brick by brick. This affects us, too - and I would ask that anyone who has hard feelings to please consider the students before you comment on here. I have read some very nasty things and it pains me to see people talk about my school this way. Have we forgotten what defines a school? The student body... I believe that we as students have accomplished great things within the school and in the community - we've represented our school well. We're the foundation of this school. And although we will miss Mr. Panetta, I know that this is happening for a reason and I am praying for the strength to cope with the hateful comments and current situation. To the alums that are angry, remember what highschool was like? This school was the base of your future... it prepared you for whatever journey you are on now. Please, please consider the students through this. The media has twisted this into something it is not... People have made us out to be a "homophobic institution," but we are so very far from that. We all knew Mr. Panetta was gay, but that didn't change our opinion of him. We loved him regardless... The school did not make him resign because he was gay, as I have seen several people say. Mr. Panetta knew what the consequences of the engagement were. And I am happy for him, but that does not change the fact that, as Mr. Panetta said, the Church does not yet support gay marriage. It was this factor that lead to his resignation, not the fact that he was gay. So before you are quick to judge this decision, please think of who your words will affect. Thank you.


Panther Student, I'm a 2004 SMCC alumni and I support the school 100%. It pains me to see all these hateful people ripping up our school. I'm also seeing a lot of SMCC alumni rip the school, and I condone their words strongly. They forget where they came from. Maybe because they have moved onto trendy cities that they think are way cooler than Sandusky, but I have digressed. SMCC is more than one teacher who used to work there. Lower your head and press on. Do well at school, and someday when you can call SMCC your alumni, support the school. SMCC does so much for the community that a lot of people here willfully ignore. Go Panthers!