Dozens of students at a California Catholic high school staged a walkout last week after teachers threatened to out a gay classmate to her parents if she didn’t attend counselling due to her sexual orientation.
High school senior Magali Rodriguez claimed in a BuzzFeed News report that administrators at Bishop Amat Memorial High School in California banned her from dating her girlfriend and forced her into disciplinary meetings and counselling with the school psychologist.
Rodriguez attended the largest Catholic school in Los Angeles for three years, where she came out to her “accepting” classmates in middle school and began her relationship with a sophomore when she was in ninth grade.
The only openly LGBTQI couple out of 1,300 co-ed students, the pair were placed under draconian rules that did not apply to straight students, with the dean agreeing not to inform Rodriguez’s parents if she complied. She was not out to her parents at the time and agreed out of fear.
“I was surrounding myself with people that were really involved in their religion, but still accepting,” Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News.
“So I never thought there was anything bad about it.”
Since BuzzFeed News’ reporting of Rodriguez’ ordeal last week, Bishop Amat students banded together and organized a walkout to protest the school’s actions and show support for Rodrigues on Friday.
Several students later told BuzzFeed News on Saturday that they hadn’t heard about the school’s homophobic actions until the original article, and were outraged to learn how Rodriguez was treated.
“I never would’ve imagined Amat to be an environment like this,” said one student, who declined to be named.
“Once I started to read about the article I was in full shock. I decided to walk out to stand up for her.”
Around 200 students staged the walkout from the seventh period until the end of school, a period of about an hour and a half. Students admitted that some teachers had commented that there were “two sides to every story,” but none tried to stop the protest.
“I feel as if the principal knew they messed up. Before the bell rang for lunch he made an announcement saying he was aware of the news article,” the same student said.
During their first year, Rodriguez and her girlfriend were called into separate meetings with their deans of discipline, where they were told that there had been complaints about the relationship, it couldn’t happen at school, and that it was wrong.
The pair were also told that they couldn’t sit together at lunch or meet up during breaks, and that Rodriguez must continue meetings with the dean of discipline and the school psychologist, and staff would continuously police them.
“We both walked out of that meeting just sobbing,” she said.
“We were really afraid on campus.
“We didn’t hold hands, we hardly hugged or anything.”
After starting her senior year Rodriguez and her girlfriend has broken up, but the anxiety of being policed had affected her grades and her mental health.
“I thought to myself, I don’t know how much longer I can go.”
Rodriguez’s parents previously pulled her out of the school when they heard about how the staff was treating her. She now attends a different high school in the area. Despite Bishop Amat’s impressive reputation for its academics and sports programs, Rodriguez’s mother, Martha Tapia-Rodriguez, told BuzzFeed News that the schools’ actions were wrong.
“They took it upon themselves to parent our daughter, to counsel her, to lecture her,” she said.