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Pregnant teacher loses lawsuit against local Catholic diocese

A jury on Sept. 18 ruled in favor of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in the case of a schoolteacher who said she had been fired for being single and pregnant, Fox 4 News reported. The lawsuit had received significant local and national coverage.

Michelle Bolen taught at St. Therese Catholic School from 2000 until 2016. Her lawsuit, which was filed three years ago, said that when she learned she was pregnant, she and her fiancé met with the Rev. Joseph Cisetti of St. Therese Parish, where she was a member. Bolen testified that Cisetti told her she had made the “right choice in terms of keeping the baby but that she had violated the terms of her school contract by being pregnant while not being married.”

Cisetti disagreed. “Pregnancy is not the problem,” he said. “Fornication is. Sexual relations must take place exclusively in marriage.”.

Church officials argued that her contract was not renewed in 2015 for reasons unrelated to her pregnancy, including tardiness, code of ethics violations and insubordination when asked to complete a “Performance Improvement Plan”. Lawyers for Bolen argued that her termination was the first time St. Therese did not renew a teacher’s contract in nearly a decade.

Joe Hatley, a lawyer representing the diocese, said Bolen’s job was in jeopardy because she had been late getting to her classroom in the mornings before her first-graders arrived, she had trouble following the school dress code and did not accept constructive criticism well. “Ms. Bolen was an OK teacher,” he said. “She was not a rock star.” Hatley argued that the case was not about her pregnancy and that Bolen filed the suit to seek revenge.

The jury deliberated for seven hours before reaching their decision. Bolen’s attorneys are considering an appeal.