Statement of Michelle McCusker, Pregnant Teacher Fired By Catholic School

November 21, 2005

Good morning. My name is Michelle McCusker. On September 7, 2005 I was offered a Pre Kindergarten teaching position at Saint Rose of Lima in Rockaway Park. The principal, Mrs. Theresa Anderson, called me for the pre-kindergarten position because I was working at a day care with the same age children that would be in my class. I happily accepted the job.

I worked at the school for about a month or so while I was pregnant. Since women tend to miscarry within the first three months of pregnancy I decided to hold off telling Mrs. Anderson. On October 5, 2005, I scheduled a meeting to speak with Mrs. Anderson about my condition. During our meeting I explained that I was about three months pregnant and not planning on getting married. When I first told Mrs. Anderson she made it seem like it was fine and said not to worry. She said that the school had a similar situation with another teacher a few years ago but this particular teacher did get married and was permitted to keep her job. She then told me that the parish pastor, Father Peter Gillen, would want to speak to me and that I should not be nervous. He never did ask me to meet with him and, in fact, never spoke to me about the situation.

Two days, later on October 7, 2005, Mrs. Anderson scheduled a second meeting with me and informed me that since I was pregnant and not married she would have to terminate me from my teaching position. Mrs. Anderson did seem upset with this decision and stated "she knows that I am doing the right thing by having the baby and she understands that we live in a different century." She told me that I was being terminated because I violated Catholic principles. Mrs. Anderson also stated that she wasn't sure if that would be my last day or if I would be allowed to stay until the end of October. She also said she would see if it would be possible for me to work until I started to show. She stated that the decision was up to me as to whether I would even want to come back after this meeting. While I was in her office I was crying through our whole meeting. I couldn't believe they were firing me over my pregnancy. I was so upset I really didn't speak to her during that meeting. Before I left her office Mrs. Anderson hugged me and said "she wished there could have been a different outcome."

We arranged for me to come in on Friday, October 28, 2005, so I could say goodbye to the children and collect my belongings. In the mean time, the NY Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Mrs. Anderson and the Bishop for the Brooklyn Diocese, explaining that they believe that the school had violated New York and federal anti-discrimination laws by firing me because of my pregnancy. On Friday, October 28, 2005, Mrs. Anderson called me and explained that she received the letter from the NYCLU and I would not be allowed to come into the school to say goodbye to the children. She said I could go to the rectory to pick up my belongings.

I have been devastated over this incident. This was my first teaching position and I was excited and looking forward to the school year with my young students. I'm still in shock over Saint Rose's decision to terminate me, especially since part of their termination letter states "your teaching ability and love of your children was of a high degree of professionalism." And I don't understand how a religion that prides itself on being forgiving and on valuing life could terminate me because I'm pregnant and am choosing to have this baby.