Roncalli grad mails back salutatorian medal in protest of counselor's suspension

Chris Brown was Roncalli High School's salutatorian in 2013. (Submitted photo)
Graduate's Show of Solidarity 6:00
Roncalli High School Controversy 5:00
Roncalli's Graduate's Show of Solidarity 4:39
Roncalli Salutatorian Response

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - A Roncalli High School graduate is back home and he's taking a stand in a show of solidarity with the counselor who's in the center of a controversy that's getting national attention.

Roncalli suspended guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald over her same-sex marriage.

It's been five years, but his graduation from Roncalli High School is something 23-year-old Chris Brown will never forget.

"I was proud of the work I put in," Brown said.

The moment was made even more memorable because Roncalli named Brown class salutatorian and awarded him a medal.

"I was proud to have gotten there and recognized as one of the top students," said Brown.

This week, though, the honor that once meant so much to Brown has become a footnote in his life.

Wednesday, the University of Maryland student mailed his medal back to Roncalli, asking to be removed from their records as the salutatorian of the Class of 2013.

"If I kept that medal, I think I run the risk of being associated with an exclusionary mission, rather than an inclusionary one," said Brown.

Brown cited the recent actions of school leaders and the archdiocese suspending Fitzgerald after learning she was married to a woman, which violates her contract.

"To think that somebody's life could be disrupted so drastically and maybe with the backing of the law, that does hurt and it's concerning to see that in our community and at the school I put so much time in," Brown explained.

In a letter Brown sent administrators he wrote in part, "In light of these events, the honor bestowed upon me five years ago has lost all meaning."

Brown implored Roncalli to keep Fitzgerald on as a counselor.

He wrote, "Love and commitment are condemned as depravity while discrimination and oppression are defended as divine justice."

"I will have no part, big or small in furthering that mission. My mission will be of support," said Brown.

Even if it means giving up something he once held so dear.

"In my mind, I have other medals I can look at," Brown said.

Brown is planning to be a college professor when he completes his PhD.

He said he also wanted to take this stand so that his future colleagues and students would know that he's about being inclusive and treasures the creation of a safe and supportive space for people to come together and grow as people of character.

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