Awesome PA Teacher Sharon Wright Fired For Supporting Gay Son

It’s looking the Mom of the Year award may be going to a Pennsylvania woman named Sharon Wright: When her teenage son came out in 2009, Wright and her husband decided to “support him and love him for who he is.”


But Wright was a teacher at the conservative Covenant Christian Academy in Harrisburg, where her son attended, and administrators were allegedly not happy about having an openly gay kid in their midst. So they suspended him—and offered Wright some helpful parenting advice, according to court papers.

Wright says one of her sons, then a high school senior, announced his sexual orientation on a social media blog on Oct. 12, 2009.

When school administrators learned of this, she says, they “took steps to immediately suspend him from school.”

The complaint continues: “In this regard, [headmaster Joseph] Sanelli instructed plaintiff and her husband that their son should not report to school the next day until the matter could be fully discussed. “Shortly after plaintiff’s son’s declaration, plaintiff and her husband met with Mr. Sanelli, [grammar-school principal Gloria] Stucky, and defendant’s Upper School Principal, Robyn Burlew.

At said meeting, plaintiff was informed that her son was to be permanently suspended from school and would not be permitted to return until he “renounced his sin.”

School Board member Rich Raynor followed this up by telling her: “‘your son is broken, and it’s your job to fix him,’” the complaint states.

And, Wright says, Raynor’s wife told her “that this was a ‘battle for [your son’s] soul’ and opined that he “may have been abused as a child.”

Wright stood by her son, but the stress took its toll and in 2010, she says that she had to request accommodation—in the form of periodic time off—or anxiety and depression brought on by ongoing harassment from faculty and board members over her son. The academy’s response was characteristically Christian: They refused to renew her contract.

But the story’s not over: According to Courthouse News Service, Wright’s filed a lawsuit demanding back pay, benefits and punitive damages.

Don’t mess with mama!


Image: sommecards

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #covenantchristianacademy #harrisburg #lawsuit stories and more


  • Jose Rodriguez

    As sad as it is, and as much as I feel for her and her son (fucking awesome kid for coming out in such a difficult world as a conservative high school), but she won’t win. It is difficult to prove intentional infliction of emotional distress, she was working for a Catholic school, and I am sure her employment was at-will. Hopefully another school has read her story and will offer her a great job.

  • Baba Booey

    Covenant Christian Academy in Harrisburg should be ashamed of itself. What an awful school.

  • JDSwell

    @Jose Rodriguez: I would guess that she is suing pursuant the American’s with Disabilities Act and possibly the Family Medical Leave Act. Even though employment is at-will she can’t be fired because she requested time off to handle anxiety and depression.

  • veritable virgo

    Just doing the word of God. MMHMM. yep. OK. I wish these Christian would get their heads out of their asses and join the rest of us in the 21st century.

  • Hephaestion

    If Jesus visited the Covenant Christian Academy in Harrisburg he would never stop throwing up.

  • the other Greg

    @Jose Rodriguez: To be specific it’s not a Catholic school, it’s some kind of whack-job Protestant holy roller school.

    @JDSwell: The link mentions the ADA claim: “White seeks an injunction, back pay, benefits, reinstatement or front pay, and punitive damages for disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, ADA violations, and violations of the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act and Human Relations Act.”

  • ScaryRussianHeather

    A mother of the year, ok she could have been vile and excommunicated him from the family. But also a “mama” who, like most Americans, likely never gave a thought to the LGBT community before it hit home.

    I think THAT’s the story, showing how familiarity is competing with law to see which one makes more tangible gain for LGBT people.

    Another courageous child, left to bear the societal burden that adults fail to even think about let alone do something about.

    Furthermore, how did she even continue to work there AND SEND HER YOUNGER SON THERE after the foul treatment of her older son? Oh that’s right. I bet they have two cars and a nice suburban home with a hefty mortgage for their 3 bathrooms.

    If the school employs fewer than 50 people, FMLA doesn’t apply. The story’s a mess so you can’t tell what really happened since they “encouraged her to take a year off to heal”. That sounds like FMLA and she probably didn’t WANT A YEAR FMLA because it’s non paid. She wanted intermittent FMLA (probably to find a new job on the DL) which is LEGAL, so maybe she didn’t get medically qualified the correct way.

    But my KID’s mental health would have been my number one priority, and there’s something wrong with this story underneath the fact that she didn’t reject the kid, imo. She probably just couldn’t afford to quit and was trying the best she could to salvage some income.

    I’m sure they’ll settle before it goes too far.

    @Jose Rodriguez:

    It’s a Christian school not a Catholic school .Christian schools are much worse.

  • adam

    so, it’s october of senior year, and the kid comes out via a social media blog. what the school did to him and his mother was clearly wrong. but, the kid had seven months to go until graduation, and he clearly would have been less vulnerable once he had graduated, and become a college student, maybe at a non-christian university.

    for me this is an argument against coming out of the closet at that particular moment, and/or an argument for keeping it in the family. part of the responsibility and maturity of coming out is knowing the best timing and the possible repercussions for making the announcement–or, for NOT making it, under adverse circumstances like these.

  • Disgusted Gay American

    so basically they were telling her – since your son won’t pound pussy or eat it – he’s suspended……FUCK RELIGION and all its ugly forms

  • Kim

    @adam: Just stay in the closet your life will be easier.

  • Daez

    @the other Greg: Does this school function as a religious organization? If so, it is my belief that it is immune from the ADA and all other discrimination statures.

    @adam: Coming out is a PERSONAL decision to make. No one has the right to tell you when, where or how you can come out. I know that it seems illogical, but you have no idea what this kid was going through trying to hide such a huge secret.

    On a side note, there are bad and good schools of all types. There are good and bad public schools. There are good and bad Christian schools. There are good and bad Catholic schools. The same goes for any type of organization.

  • plazaboy

    This is a sad and unfortunate situation but i always have to shake my head when i read about people coming out at Christian schools and not expecting repercussions, in fact, being shocked that there are! I went to a Christian school all my life and even though i knew i was gay without doubt in the 8th grade, i had enough common sense to know that if i told anyone i would have been kicked out of the school.

    I’m not saying what they did is right and the son and mother are to be commended but honestly, if you are attending a Christian school or a teacher at a Christian school, keep your personal life COMPLETELY OUT of the school premise.

  • Ernst

    @adam: What a weird thing to say. You shouldn’t come out if the people around you will have a problem with it? If everyone thought like that, we’d be back in 1950.

  • david traversa

    THIS is what’s really “tearing the fabric of society”, folks..

  • M

    @adam: @Kim: @Ernst:

    I get what ADAM is saying. It’s a hard thing to hear, but I see his point.

    The kid had only 7 months until graduation and he went to that god-awful school…

    I would have advised the same thing. It’s only 7 months.

    He should be commended for wanting to come out and proceeding to do so, but it wasn’t the best, timing wise…and now he and his family have to deal with lawsuits and what not.

    That said, it is what it is. The boy came out and now it’s time to fight.

    Hope they win.

  • JT

    Sadly, if her title included the word “minister” or she participated in any religious instruction, including as little as leading prayers, she can get no help from ADA. Too bad people think religious schools are better.

  • B

    No. 15 · M wrote, “@adam: @Kim: @Ernst:
    “I get what ADAM is saying. It’s a hard thing to hear, but I see his point.
    The kid had only 7 months until graduation and he went to that god-awful school…
    I would have advised the same thing. It’s only 7 months.”

    Excellent suggestion. The kid should obviously have modeled all possible outcomes as Markov chains for a number of strategies for his coming out and then picked the optimal one. You know, just like they do risk assessment for a variety of complex systems such as fault-tolerant aviation systems.

    Oh. I forgot. Usually they start covering this in depth in graduate school, or maybe an introduction in an advanced undergraduate course, and he was only in high school.

    (In case someone doesn’t get the point, which seems to happen with some regularity, it is that high school students aren’t known for their skill regarding risk assessment.)

  • Billysees

    An excellent example why Christian fundamentalism is a “psyhchosis”.

    “Protestantism represented St. Paul’s victory over St. Peter. Fundamentalism represented St. Paul’s victory over Christ. ”
    – Will Durant ( an American writer, historian, and philosopher ), from “Caesar and Christ”

    He said, “come unto me all who labor and are burdened with something, and I will give you rest.

    But these folks do otherwise —

    What a shame…..

  • Larry

    @Jose Rodriguez: I have worked at an evangelical school and you are right it is at will and their rules…in WA state they do not even pay unemployment insurance. it is too bad but I doubt she has a chance. kudos to the kid though. personally, my gaydar went berserk at the school and I think many parents send their kids to religious schools because their kids exhibit signs of gayness and the parents think surrounding them with religion will stop it

  • Karen

    Fundamentalists are very big on the return of Christ. Well, Fundies, get ready – Jesus is coming, and boy is he pissed.

  • Billysees

    @Karen: No 20

    Well said….very well said.

    Brilliant….and it’s funny too cause it’s so true….lol…

  • cold sore treatment

    My coder is trying to convince me to move to .net from PHP.
    I have always disliked the idea because of the costs. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using WordPress on a number of websites for about a year and am concerned about switching to another platform. I have heard great things about Is there a way I can transfer all my wordpress posts into it? Any kind of help would be really appreciated!

Comments are closed.