Regis Jesuit teacher says school, Archdiocese defamed her in firing over pro-choice student op-ed

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A picture of an opinion column in the Winter 2021 edition of Elevate, a student magazine by Regis Jesuit High School students. The edition was retracted by school administrators because this oped was published.

AURORA | One of the faculty advisers who was fired after a pro-choice opinion piece was published in the Regis Jesuit High School student magazine said she was fired without cause and was defamed by the archdiocese.

Maria Lynch, a former journalism teacher and faculty adviser for Elevate student magazine, was fired along with the publication’s other adviser after a pro-choice opinion piece was published in the winter edition. The magazine’s own policies prohibited faculty from having the final say over what was printed, and Regis Jesuit administrators declined to say why specifically the advisers were fired. 

On Wednesday, Lynch provided the Sentinel with documents of written communication between her and Regis Jesuit administrators regarding the situation. 

Shortly after the winter edition of the magazine was published, Principal Jimmy Tricco emailed Lynch and adviser Nicole Arduini asking about the magazine’s editorial policies, saying he appreciated the student’s perspective.

“Provocative piece for sure, which makes for good conversation,” he said.

Six days later, however, Lynch said she was abruptly fired by the administrators, and that only one attempt was made to reach her by phone several hours before she was terminated in an email.

“Effective immediately, your employment is being terminated for cause including but not limited to your poor judgment, personal misconduct on the premises that caused scandal and seriously damaged the reputation of the school, and for not supporting the mission and faith dimensions of Regis Jesuit High School,” a Dec. 22 email from the school’s human resources director said.

In a Jan. 6 email to the principal and director of human resources, Lynch said that the school had not provided any basis for those claims or proof that she violated the terms of her employment agreement.

In the email to the Sentinel, she said that she is “vocally pro-life” and disputed the implication that her personal beliefs had anything to do with the op-ed being published. The article was written by a journalism student and submitted to the student editorial board, which according to the magazine’s own policies has final say over what gets published.

In a December email to the Regis Jesuit community, Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila said he was “deeply troubled” that the editorial had been published, and said that Catholic schools must be fully committed to the pro-life mission.

“As such, faculty and staff of Catholic schools must be pro-life,” he said. “They must also take to heart the mission to guide and form young men and women in the fullness of truth, not their personal political preferences or agendas.”

In an email, Lynch described this characterization by the bishop as “incredibly hurtful and defamatory.”

She said she reached out to the archdiocese by email earlier this week asking if she could discuss the situation. On Wednesday, she said she received a reply saying that Aquila is not able to meet with her but that she could share her concerns in writing.

Regis Jesuit is an independent school, and therefore is not directly controlled by the diocese. However, the Denver Archdiocese still has the ability to exert significant influence over it, and the archbishop has the power to revoke its status as a Catholic school.

Former and current students as well as outside observers the Sentinel spoke to all said they believed that pressure from the Archdiocese played a significant role in the school’s strong negative response to the article.

Two former students cited an incident several years ago when Aquila came to the school to preside at a Mass as an example of the diocese’s influence. Though the school already had a dress code for Mass, during his visit Aquila expressed displeasure with how some of the female students were dressed. Almost immediately after, the students said the dress code was revised to be stricter.

A guest opinion column in the Denver Post by former Elevate editor-in-chiefs Madeline Proctor and Sophia Marcinek noted that the school had previously allowed op-eds mentioning abortion, including one praising Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and believes censorship is being driven by fear of conflict with the diocese.

“Aquila dictated that Catholic schools must be ‘unabashedly defending’ the anti-abortion movement ‘no matter what the cost.’ In this case, the cost was two beloved teachers, Nicole Arduini and Maria Lynch, who were fired for allowing the article to be published,” they wrote.

Diocesan spokesperson Mark Haas told the Sentinel that the situation and subsequent decisions were handled exclusively by the Regis leadership team.

“As mentioned in the Archbishop’s letter, enough people reached out to him and the archdiocese who were concerned about the situation that he felt compelled to respond,” Haas said in an email. “No where in the letter does the Archbishop mention any specific Regis employee, but instead he speaks generally about the expectations he and Catholic parents have when they choose to send their children to a Catholic institution.”

Lynch also shared correspondence between her and Regis Jesuit detailing disagreement over her separation agreement. Lynch proposed changes to the original agreement requiring Regis Jesuit to state that she was terminated without cause, that she is still eligible for rehire in the diocese and allowing her to make a public statement about what happened.

The school rejected those requests, and Lynch said that subsequently it has also rejected a proposal for a mutual release. The Sentinel asked Lynch if she is considering taking legal action.

“To answer your question and reiterate what I told Principal Tricco and Katherine Fay in my initial reply, because of my love for the Church and the students and faculty at Regis Jesuit, I prefer to avoid litigation of my legal claims,” Lynch responded. “But I also know that what has been said about me is blatantly untrue and offensive.”

She also said she has been advised by legal counsel that the school’s actions were “a clear breach” of her employment agreement.

In response to an inquiry, a Regis Jesuit spokesperson reiterated that the administration does not discuss personnel matters.

The firing of the two teachers has caused a stir among current and former Regis Jesuit students. Annika Mayers, a college sophomore who graduated from Regis Jesuit in 2019, said she was upset when she heard about what happened.

She believes that the decision was short-sighted, and worries that censoring students could set them up for failure once they leave the private school environment and have to assert their beliefs.

“I think it’s going to make students a lot more timid to speak their mind,” she said.

Other student journalists have also shared their support for Elevate. The Grandview Chronicle, student newspaper of Grandview High School, published an opinion column from editor Will Inzana speaking out against censorship.

“We at the Grandview Chronicle recognize the importance of freedom of speech, especially in student journalism,” he said. “At Grandview, we are allowed to publish our stories without fear of censorship. We will always stand by our fellow student journalists and advocate for their rights.”

Jack Kennedy, who was director of the Colorado Student Media Association for 10 years through 2020, said that in his experience Regis Jesuit had a tradition of supporting student free expression.

He isn’t sure how this will affect the school going forward. Some potential teachers and families will likely be repelled, while for others it could be a selling point.

“I think there’s a whole lot of adults in our community, and I hate to say it, who would prefer students don’t speak up,” he said.

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Kathy Hixon
Kathy Hixon
10 months ago

Where is a quote from someone that supports the school. It is a Catholic school and terminating a life is not part of the religion.

Hugh Angus
Hugh Angus
10 months ago
Reply to  Kathy Hixon

If you had basic reading comprehension skills you’d be able to see that the article is from the teachers perspective. The schools perspective is not that hard to see either. They made an example of Ms. Maria Lynch by terminating her. I also think you have forgotten how this country works. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion regardless of what institution they attend. Sounds like you are dense.

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
10 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Angus

Catholic Church never understood freedom of speech or free discussion of different ideas and views and uses punishment to insure it does not happen. Not to mention covers up abuse/assault of children.

Johannes Van Loew
Johannes Van Loew
10 months ago
Reply to  Kathy Hixon

Get bent Kathy Hixon. The teacher was fired three days before Christmas and was told by the principal things were fine before. Clearly they idiotic and evil archbishop is over extending his grasp and forced the school to do this. Plus he’s smearing her name? Where’s the rest of the bishops calling out their brother for being a jerk?

Willa
Willa
10 months ago
Reply to  Kathy Hixon

Although that is highly true, a student’s opinion on the matter should be by the guidance of the Lord and not through forced censorship of others. What’s more, when I was a student over a third of the student body wasn’t Catholic, and very few of the Catholic student body were actual practicing Catholics. What the school has demonstrated through these situations and issues in the past will teach those students that the Church prefers oppression and lying in order to enforce their political views. We’re supposed to use our power as followers of God to share in his love and beliefs, not punish others and those who unknowingly assisted them on their personal belief. This teacher was treated with no dignity nor respect. She was one of the best teachers at the school, and always publicly announced the Churches views and always facilitated and guided discussion instead of shutting down the student voice.

Bob Perkosky
Bob Perkosky
10 months ago
Reply to  Kathy Hixon

Ask the big man Aquila yourself. I’m sure he’ll offer a statement as long as it’s only “in writing.” Be careful not to take it public though, otherwise he might be revoke your Catholic identification.

Ben Dover
Ben Dover
10 months ago
Reply to  Kathy Hixon

Ratio

Jack uouf
Jack uouf
10 months ago
Reply to  Ben Dover

Ratio ratio lmao

Jack
Jack
10 months ago
Reply to  Kathy Hixon

Girl, you are stupid. Clearly, you do not know the magnitude of this issue. It’s not about abortion at this point. It’s about how the school decided to respond. Pulling the article and making a statement is enough. Firing two teachers and harassing the student body throughout the day about it, is uncalled for (even causing another teacher to quit). Not to mention the student that wrote the article. Who knows what the school is doing to that student for voicing their opinion. It was an opinion piece written by a student for students to read. It was not the opinion or a statement from the school. And honey, you’re clearly a republican. You of all people should know that the freedom of speech is the first amendment (or at least a right, who knows what kind of education you have) so see this article and the other ones written on this issue, from another perspective. Not everyone has to have the same opinions, but everyone has the right to voice them. Oh and since you brought religion into this comment section, the school has said that they won’t take any action in the censoring or disciplinary action as a result of an article. The school just fired two teachers. They lied. They are sinners.

Ben Dover
Ben Dover
10 months ago
Reply to  Kathy Hixon

L comment + Ratio

Leopold Tulips
10 months ago

Fired via email just before the birthday of Christ? Brutal. Wouldn’t it have been more Christian to send a text?

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
10 months ago
Reply to  Leopold Tulips

whatever happened, there will always be a coverup by Catholic Church

Maddie Proctor
Maddie Proctor
10 months ago

So much love for Maria Lynch, Nicole Arduini, and all of the faculty members who work tirelessly to support students day in and day out <3 None of us would be where we are today without you!

Matty Gallagher
Matty Gallagher
10 months ago

If this article happens to be fully correct then it is eye opening and I am ashamed of my school for being so weak.

deez
deez
10 months ago

The only thing weak here is your diet

Stephanie Bender
Stephanie Bender
10 months ago

Maria Lynch represents everything you hope for in a teacher. Dedicated to the profession and to her students. Committed to supporting all students and all voices. Someone who sees students for who they are and helps discover and celebrate their strengths, and helps them see their struggles as areas for growth as opposed to character flaws. It’s no surprise she was snatched up immediately by another school. Children are lucky and parents should be grateful to have her as part of their support system. She was my child’s teacher and he felt seen, valued and accepted. She attended conferences to continue her education around diversity and inclusion so she could better understand and support students from all backgrounds. This is a dramatic, narrow minded loss for the Regis community. Maria Lynch should feel proud of her behavior and her dedication to elevating the voices of our children.
– Stephanie Bender

Johannes Van Loew
Johannes Van Loew
10 months ago
Reply to  John Doe

Dude that’s not the other side of the story. That literally just regurgitates what was said already, tries to use a Red Herring argument bringing in Regis U and makes it more about abortion that the real issue of censorship and how poorly this was handled. This school is not treating the employees well. And you’re so convinced of your own righteousness and truth, you used a fake name. Cool bruh

Jane Doe
Jane Doe
10 months ago
Reply to  John Doe

Lol the quality of that article compared to this article and the others in the DP and here speaks volumes… literally just regurgitating the vague comments of the school

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
10 months ago
Reply to  John Doe

Catholics punish free discussion of ideas and always coverup whatever is going on, including assault on children

Will Brent Inzana
Will Brent Inzana
10 months ago

Thank you so much for the mention! This issue hits really close to home for my staff. It’s really good to see this is getting the attention it deserves.

DICK MOORE
DICK MOORE
10 months ago

All great and interesting points and views. Everybody is right yet everyone is wrong. The real point has been made for a couple thousand years long before abortion credibility, private schools and censorship.

You just don’t piss off the Pope!

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
10 months ago

No room these days for freedom of speech or allowance for opposing viewpoints, apparently, regardless of venue.

A student paper is an extracurricular activity, not a function of the school. Courts have ruled that a school cannot control what is published. In order to avoid this restriction, some schools have shut down the papers, which is one solution, but censorship is not the way to go. I would have preferred to see a rebuttal piece.

The teachers will get unemployment compensation, which will increase the schools UC insurance premiums, and rightly so. And when an employee is fired, the former employer does everything in its power to defame. Since the employee has been harmed financially, he or she may be entitled legally to an award for that, which will further cost the school. Knee-jerk reactions such as what the school did, rarely turn out well, but are also rarely contemplated thoroughly.

Martin Herder
Martin Herder
10 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

The teachers won’t get unemployment. Religious high schools in Colorado are not legally required to participate.

Steve-o
Steve-o
10 months ago

The extreme Colorado Bishops like Aquila and formerly Chaput are one of the key reasons that people have left the Church in droves in the Denver Metro during the past couple of decades. The main time I see most of my Catholic friends in church is at funerals. Very few weddings and baptisms.

Jess
Jess
10 months ago

Regis community, if you would like to protest please follow the link and sign. https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/regis-alum-and-community-condemn-regis-response-to-pro-choice-free-speech/

Lebron
Lebron
10 months ago
Reply to  Jess

Yeah cause a petition is really gonna help

Rachel
Rachel
10 months ago

First, let me say that I fully understand the free speech arguments being made, as well as the concerns for the teachers. I’d like to offer some things to think about with regards to the free speech question. I have read that Regis’s policy does allow for censorship of this student publication for certain topics. What specifically are those topics? For example, should the students be allowed to publish articles promoting suicide, teen drug abuse or murder? I think it’s important to carefully consider those types of questions because the Catholic Church views abortion as murder, and they are not alone, as this view is held by half the country, including people of all political persuasions. So if one would agree with censoring a student article promoting suicide, teen drug use, or murder of life outside the womb, could that same person agree with censoring articles at a Catholic School, knowing that the Church views it as promoting the murder of children in the womb?

Rachel
Rachel
10 months ago

I fully understand the free-speech arguments being made, as well as the concern for the teachers, I’d like to offer some things to think about with regards to the free-speech issue. I have read that Regis’s policy does allow for censorship of this student publication for certain topics that might be too egregious. What are those topics? What are some examples? For example, should a student publication allow for a pro – suicide, pro – teen drug abuse, or pro – murder article? The Catholic Church views abortion as murder, and they are not alone. About half of voters in our country view abortion as taking a life in the womb, and many of these people are not Catholic and they come from a variety of political persuasions. So if one were to agree that a school publication should not allow pro suicide, pro drug abuse, or pro murder articles to be published, could that person also come to see why a Catholic school could view a pro abortion article as promoting murder in the womb, and therefore censor it?

J.D. Ruybal
10 months ago

Seems more about thought control, behavior conformity (modification), imposed dress standards and the like.
The institutional powers, that be and are, require everyone to be in step and unquestioning obedient in every aspect of life and being. This, ‘total obedience’ is what maintains power over the masses. Today entire communities are dying and are at war simply because they are told they must believe and behave as directed by their man made religion and political party affiliation. No room for independent thought and actions! One and ALL must discount science and reality (period). This is about control and keeping the door to reality closed and locked. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech.

Brandon
Brandon
10 months ago

I find so many of these comments disturbing. It proves that we are raising our children in an extremely polarized community. Just my opinion, but stupid would be the people who thought a pro-choice article would be a good idea for a Catholic school magazine. As someone mentioned, if you value your employment, then you should know your boss. It was in poor judgment and termination seems well deserved. She/they should have recognized the potential ramifications that could be brought upon the CHILD who wrote this. She should have been protected by not allowing this to run. Not sure if it matters, but this magazine is not solely an extracurricular activity and students taking certain courses participate in the magazine. Also, this is not the first time an edition of the magazine has been pulled. I don’t remember the reason, but it was a conservative view.
I wonder if the same people who claim Regis Jesuit is censoring young developing minds are also concerned with the constant censorship in our main stream media. Conservative opinions are routinely censored and people are ostracized for their conservative views. I also wonder where are these “pro-choice” followers on the vaccine mandate. Do you still believe my choice my body? If so, will you continually allow government to intervene in your body? I think we all know a few adopted GIRLS from China. If you don’t know why there were so many, then google yourself a history lesson for the evening.
The only defamation I see is that against Regis Jesuit, the Archbishop, and the Catholic Church.
Additionally, the administrators of this article should take down the link to the pro choice petition, which uses a Regis Jesuit logo as if if it came from them, and asks for funding for planned parenthood. And please say a few Hail Marys for this polarized community!

J.D. Ruybal
10 months ago

Seems more about thought control, behavior conformity (modification), imposed dress standards and the like. The institutional powers, that be and are, require everyone to be in step and unquestioning obedient in every aspect of life and being. This, ‘total obedience’ is what maintains power over the masses. Today entire communities are dying and are at war simply because they are told they must believe and behave as directed by their man made religion and political part affiliation. No room for independent thought! One and ALL must discount science and reality(period). This is about control and keeping the door on reality closed and locked. It has noting to do with freedom of speech.

J.D. Ruybal
10 months ago

Seems more about thought control, behavior conformity (modification), imposed dress standards and the like. The institutional powers, that be and are, require everyone to be in step and unquestioning obedient in every aspect of life and being. This, ‘total obedience’ is what maintains power over the masses. Today entire communities are dying and are at war simply because they are told they must believe and behave as directed by their man made religion and political party affiliation. No room for independent thought! One and ALL must discount science and reality(period). This is about control and keeping the door on reality closed and locked. It has very little to do with freedom of speech

G Larson
G Larson
10 months ago

Twenty years ago I wrote a controversial op-ed at Regis. A week later the faculty published a rebuttal, quoting Voltaire: “I don’t agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” That’s how you treat a student publication. That’s how you run a school. That’s real leadership.