A group of eighth grade students from Ohio’s Notre Dame Academy on a field trip to Chicago were “humiliated” after being marched out of a Chicago performance of The Nutcracker when their chaperones discovered the lead parents were depicted as a gay couple.
The school came under fire after a parent who identifies as bisexual, Carly McGoldrick, tweeted about the incident: “The 8th graders at my catholic grade school take an annual trip to chicago around thanksgiving and usually get to see a musical or whatever… this year they went to see the nutcracker but clara’s parents were played by two men so chaperones made them all get up and LEAVE.”
“I’ve been in contact with an audience member (not from NDA) who said the walk-out was disruptive and confusing,” McGoldrick added in a later tweet. “It happened about 5 minutes before the performance actually began, and i can only imagine how humiliated the students were. Waiting for NDA to refund the parents of their students for the cost of the tickets and to issue an apology for embarrassing them in front of an entire auditorium of people.”
The president of Notre Dame Academy, issued an apology, after McGoldrick’s tweet prompted a firestorm of anger: “From NDA President Kim Grilliot: We apologize for our decision for 8th graders leave to a performance of The Nutcracker before it began due to casting choices. The mistake is contrary to our inclusive spirit and reminds us our actions should affirm that we are all God’s children.”
McGoldrick, an alumnus of the school, told the Toledo Blade the school needed to do more, based partly on her own experience there: “There simply just isn’t an adequate conversation at Notre Dame Academy about gender and sexuality issues. It simply just doesn’t exist outside of theology classes and that simply is not enough. As someone heavily involved in student council — president of the executive student council her senior year — I felt like, ‘Oh God, I can’t share this. I don’t want the school to out me to my parents,’ which they’ve been known to do in the past, or, ‘I don’t want them to find out and make it awkward around my other friends or teachers. I spent so many of my formative years shaping and hiding my identity so as to not feel outcast by the school.”
The school left another statement on Facebook: “We apologize for our decision for 8th graders leave to a performance of The Nutcracker before it began due to casting choices. The mistake is contrary to our inclusive spirit and reminds us our actions should affirm that we are all God’s children. To clarify what happened, the decision was made for the NDA eighth graders to leave a performance of The Nutcracker before it began because upon arrival they discovered that the producer had chosen to cast two men as the main character’s parents. However, the Spirit of Inclusion statement adopted by the NDA Board of Trustees in 2014 affirms that we in the Notre Dame Academy community welcome all into our Gospel community including but not limited to people of all colors, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender expression, abilities, economic classes and nationalities. We consider the decision to not attend the performance a mistake and sincerely apologize to anyone we offended. The action does does not reflect NDA’s true values. Rest assured we will redouble our efforts to live up to our inclusion statement. Sometimes we teach our children as much from our mistakes as from our successes. We view this as a chance to teach our students the value of taking ownership of one’s mistakes and to reaffirm that our community is committed to inclusion.”
Notre Dame Academy students have painted a rock on the school’s campus in rainbow colors with the words “God Loves U” in response to the incident.