The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

Worcester Catholic Schools’ Controversial Anti-LGBTQ+ Policy

A pride flag hanging from a Boston Church. Photo courtesy of Brian Talbot

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester will now require students to “conduct themselves at school in a manner consistent with their biological sex.” This new policy, which came into effect at the start of the school year and applies to 21 Catholic schools in Worcester, Massachusetts, also mandates that students “may not advocate, celebrate, or express same-sex attraction.” 

Students are now expected to dress and use the pronouns, bathrooms and other school facilities associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. While some of the Catholic schools already had their own individual policies in place, the implementation of this diocesan-wide initiative – called “Catholic Education and the Human Person” – aims to standardize regulations among church-affiliated schools, according to the diocese’s official statement. 

“They issued a policy from the diocese to all of the schools to be able to have some consistency,” Raymond Delisle, chancellor and director of communications for the diocese, told NBC Boston on Aug. 17. This policy does not apply to Anna Maria College, Assumption College, or the College of the Holy Cross. Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury, and Notre Dame Academy in Worcester, have also refused to adopt the policy. 

Amidst the diocese’s ongoing efforts to target queer youth, the Worcester-based nonprofit Love Your Labels, in partnership with the YMCA of Central Massachusetts and MassEquality, issued a call to action through an Instagram post on Aug. 21. The youth organization urged the community to “stand out against anti-LGBTQ+ policies and encouraged “Queer folx and our allies to rally in support of our youth and their rights to live free and authentically.” The demonstration was held on Aug. 21 on the corner of Elm and Linden Street.  

This is not the first time that Bishop Robert McManus, who approved the policy, has come under fire for his conservative stance regarding LGBTQ+ issues within the Worcester Catholic schools. In 2022, McManus stripped the Nativity School, a tuition-free private school for boys, of its Catholic status due to the display of Pride and Black Lives Matter flags on school grounds. Despite not receiving any funding from the diocese prior to the controversy, the Nativity School lost its Catholic affiliation regardless. 

The diocese’s policy change comes amidst a broader national debate surrounding LGBTQIA+ inclusion in American schools, and a wave of legislation targeting classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation. Under the leadership of Gov. Desantis, Florida enacted the Parental Rights in Education bill, which its opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, in March 2022. It reads, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The legislation has since expanded through 12th grade.

Moreover, these circumstances raise important legal questions related to Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex at any school receiving federal financial assistance. According to the American Bar Association, the Worcester diocese’s decision may clash with Title IX requirements by violating the First and 14th amendments, leading to potential legal challenges regarding civil rights protections. 

It is unclear whether any of the 19 Catholic schools that adopted the policy receive federal funding and the full implications and legal aspects of the policy remain to be seen. The Scarlet will closely monitor any further developments in this matter and provide updates as they unfold.

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