09 January 2013

It Took 30 Years, But They Found A Way To Fire Him

In the winter class I'm teaching, the students are about to read Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis.

It seems like an amazing coincidence, if not a synchronicity, given something that's just happened in a school directly between the one in which I work and my apartment.

St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows, Queens has--justifiably or not--an excellent academic reputation.  However, according to a few acquaintances of mine who happen to be alumni, it's as big and impersonal as any city public high school, and people of different races and cultures coexist but don't really interact with, let alone accept, each other.

So far, it doesn't sound too atypical for a high school in that part of Queens.  However, the fact that it is run by Franciscan brothers means that some people will most likely never be allowed as students, let alone teachers, there.

It doesn't matter that someone has taught there for more than three decades. If that teacher changes him or her self in form, his or her excellence as a teacher will not be enough to keep him or her on the school's faculty list.

That is what Mark Krowlikowski has discovered.  In his 32 years of teaching at St. Francis Prep, he has received numerous accolades for his work, which has included leading students in a musical performance for Pope Benedict XVI.  But, last year, the parents of a ninth-grader complained about him.

Specifically, they took issue with his appearance.  He was always neat and well-groomed and routinely wore suits and neckties to work.  However, he started to wear earrings and nails manicured in a feminine style, according to court documents.  

He was summoned to the office of the principal, Brother Leonard Conway who called the transgender identity Krowlikowski revealed to him "worse than gay."  During their meeting, Conway told Krowlikowski he could no longer appear at public events if he came dressed as a woman.

The school's lawyer claims that Krowlikowski was fired for "appropriate non-discriminatory reasons".  Interesting that it took the school 30 years to find such reasons.

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