BRISTOL – Around 200 past students of St. Paul Catholic High School voiced their disapproval in an open letter about a recently enacted gender identity policy placed in the school’s student handbook. Letter signers said they want to see the policy removed.
“For St. Paul to add such transphobic and dismissive language to the Student Handbook in 2021 is abhorrent and grossly harmful to past, present and future students,” the letter reads. “Therefore, in solidarity with LGBTQ+ St. Paul students, with this letter we add a collective voice - representing St. Paul alumni from various graduating years across race, sexual orientation, gender identity and faith - to call on St. Paul to remove this policy and issue an apology to its students.”
The letter goes on to say those signed individuals understand the school follows Catholic teachings but they believe those within the faith are changing their opinions about the LGBTQ+ community. Hyperlinked information in the letter includes recent surveys from the Public Religion Research Institute that former students say supports their position about opinion changes. The letter said signers feel other Catholic schools, which they listed as Northwest Catholic and the Canterbury School, in the state have also taken a different approach to the issue of gender identity. The letter was addressed to school administration, faculty and staff.
“This is a new policy from this year from 2021 going into 2022,” said Kindeya Chiaro, who graduated from St. Paul in 2013. “I first saw a screenshot of the policy circulating on Instagram from a friend. I reached out to her and said we should write an open letter ... after work, I wrote the letter and shared it with a few friends, hoping to get signatures from alumni and people started sharing it and it definitely made its rounds.”
She said the letter had signatures from individuals dating back to the 1970s.
“I’m bisexual myself. In high school, I wasn’t out. I could probably count the amount of students on my hand that were fully out,” Chiaro said. “When you’re in that environment and you know you’re in the most vulnerable stages of your life trying to figure everything out, it’s really difficult to be your true authentic self in a place that shames it and a place that makes you feel like you’re wrong and you have to pick and choose between your faith and who you are.”
Chiaro said she previously did not feel the school was openly against the LGBTQ+ community but the new policy felt like a “doubling down in a way (the school) hadn’t before.”
The policy in the handbook said it will act in accordance with Archdiocesan OEEC: “St. Paul Catholic High School shall accept and relate to students and all members of the school community, for the duration of their years in attendance at St. Paul, according to their God-given, biological sex as male or female…” The policy said it would further continue to maintain such distinctions in the case of facility use, uniforms, athletic teams and nomenclature.
“St. Paul shall not sponsor, facilitate, or host such organizations, events, or activities that would promote views contrary to Catholic doctrine regarding human sexuality and gender, either on or off campus, or through social media,” the policy continued.
When contacted, St. Paul Catholic High School President Cary Dupont provided the following statement.
“All students enrolled at St. Paul Catholic High School are treated with the love, respect and compassion they deserve. We aim to educate and nurture the whole person – mind, body and spirit. We accept and relate to all members of our school community, for the duration of their years in attendance, according to their God-given biological sex consistent with Catholic doctrine and Archdiocesan policy,” the statement read.
St. Paul is within the purview of the Archdiocese of Hartford.