AURORA | A group of students from Regis Jesuit High School protested outside school Friday morning and held a walkout in response to the firing of the student magazine’s two faculty advisers.
The two advisers were fired over a pro-choice opinion piece that was published in the winter edition of the student-run magazine, Elevate. The administration said that it is in the process of reevaluating how the magazine is run to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Senior Samuel Opherman was outside the school on Friday morning with about 15 other students, holding a sign asking “Do you respect our dignity?”
He said he decided to protest to show support for the teachers and advocate for student voices. Regis Jesuit has created a “culture of fear” with the firing, he said.
“We don’t feel like the administration respects us,” Opherman said.
“Silence is not education!” “What happened to open growth?” “Our silence is so loud” read other signs that students held as they stood outside, wrapped in blankets and coats against the snow. Drivers passing by honked in support.
The protest was held during a student Mass. Students told the Sentinel they had been warned by the administration that they would receive a three-hour disciplinary punishment if they walked out of the service.
“We respect our students’ decision to use this form of protest to express their frustrations,” Regis Jesuit spokesperson Charisse Broderick King said in an email. “Exercising this right does come with responsibilities, and students who participated may be subject to consequences as outlined in the Student Handbook regarding unexcused absences.”
Controversy has been brewing at the private Catholic school in Aurora since the beginning of the spring semester, when students found out that the two advisers, who were also journalism and foreign language teachers, were fired due to the publication of the editorial, which was submitted by a student and advocated pro-choice views on abortion.
The magazine’s editorial policy stated that the student editorial board had final say over what was published and that faculty and administrators were not allowed to have prior review over the publication.
In a December letter announcing the retraction of the winter magazine, the school’s principal and president said that the school is “taking steps now to consider the magazine’s editorial process to ensure its compatibility with and responsibility in representing the mission of Regis Jesuit.”
The student magazine is currently being run by the school’s one remaining faculty adviser, who was previously in charge of student TV news. Elevate staff have been told they are not allowed to comment publicly on the situation.
Maria Lynch, one of the fired advisers, provided documents to the Sentinel detailing a back-and-forth with the administration over whether or not she was fired without cause. Lynch said she has been advised by legal counsel that the school violated the terms of her employment agreement by firing her. The school has said it does not comment on personnel matters.
On Friday, principal David Card and president Jimmy Tricco sent a letter to Regis Jesuit families addressing the situation.
“No students have been sanctioned in any way in relation to the publication of the article itself,” the letter said. “Nor were our decisions influenced by any external pressure, including that of the archdiocese. When it relates to personnel conversations and decisions, unfortunately, there are contextual pieces that we are unable to share in this current situation, and we are sorry we cannot offer more clarity in this regard.”
The letter also said that this is a “painful time” for the Regis Jesuit community and that the school remains “committed to balancing Jesuit education’s call to question everything with ensuring a deep and meaningful understanding of Catholic beliefs.”