Roncalli alum speaking out after he claims school silenced him while he was a student

Dominic Conover

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - A former Roncalli High School student is speaking out about what he believes was discrimination he faced during his senior year of high school after he became a vocal advocate for a guidance counselor who was suspended for being in a same-sex marriage.

Then-Roncalli senior Dominic Conover didn't think twice about raising his voice last August in support of then-Roncalli guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald after the school suspended her for being in a same-sex marriage.

"We will continue to be life-long crusaders for the LGBTQ+ community," Conover said at the time, speaking to a group of supporters after he helped create "Shelly's Voice" in support of Fitzgerald.

Conover himself even came out publicly at the time.

"It was important to show people that I am gay. I'm proud and I'm ready to take this stand for the other students," Conover explained.

Several months after raising his voice, though, Conover said school administrators called him into several meetings. The most memorable, he said, was a meeting last February.

"Basically, they said I crossed a bunch of lines a bit too much and I couldn't be crossing lines further if I wanted to graduate," Conover said.

"I was terrified," he said, explaining that following that meeting, he didn't speak out publicly in support of Fitzgerald or the LGBTQ community for the rest of the school year.

He's speaking out now.

Conover has found his voice again, sharing his story most recently as a keynote speaker at an event in Los Angeles last month.

"It was empowering because for five months, I wasn't able to tell the full story," Conover said.

All of it comes just as Conover's alma mater released an expanded bullying and harassment policy in its school newsletter.

The policy says:

"The good name, reputation and personal safety of each student, faculty, staff member and adult volunteer is vitally important. In order to protect students, employees, volunteers and the school, each student is expected to treat the good name and reputation of other students, school employees, volunteers and the school with dignity and respect and not engage in any activity or conduct, either on campus or off campus, that is in opposition to this guideline and/or inconsistent with the Catholic Christian principles of the school, as determined by the school in its discretion.

Any derogatory, slanderous, hostile or threatening remarks or actions directed toward any of the above by a student will be seen as a violation of this policy and will be viewed as a serious matter, whether it is done physically, verbally, or electronically through the use of a home or school computer, phone, IPAD or any other electronic media or by remote access during school time or after hours.

Some examples include but are not limited to, social media, text messages, blogging, voice mails, images, pictures, etc.

Any individual found to have made or participated with others in making such remarks or actions will be subject to disciplinary action by the school, up to and including expulsion."

Conover sees it as a threat to anyone who speaks out like he once did.

"I think it was a warning to the students that if you follow the footsteps of Dominic and start speaking out about the injustice you're experiencing, it's written right there, probable expulsion," he said.

For the soon to be Butler University freshman, though, he's not afraid to speak out anymore, especially to the church in which he was raised.

"If they start listening to our voices and listening to our pain, I think they're going to realize that it's time to change," said Conover.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis issued a statement regarding questions about their expanded bullying and harrassement policy and Conover's claims he was pulled into meetings about his advocacy work.

The statement reads:

"The Archdiocese of Indianapolis welcomes all students who desire quality Catholic education and formation in preparation for college, careers and heaven. We respect the God-given dignity of every student and we expect our students to treat every person they encounter with the dignity they deserve. Families in our communities have invested so their children can attend a school that teaches them the Catholic faith. They rely on the Archdiocese to uphold the fullness of Catholic teaching throughout its schools. Out of respect for our students and families we do not comment on private, confidential meetings between students, parents and school administrators.

All schools have the right to set standards for student conduct and consequences for misconduct. The U.S. Constitution protects the rights of private religious schools to establish rules for its students, faculty and staff that support the schools' religious mission."

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