When Jarretta Hamilton, a teacher at the private Southland Christian School in St. Cloud, Fla., told her principal in April, 2009 that she needed six weeks of maternity leave, she had no idea it would get her fired. But it did.
Not only did Hamilton lose her job, but, according to a pending discrimination lawsuit, she claims the school’s principal told other teachers and parents of her students the exact reason she was fired: the child she carried had been conceived out of wedlock.
“When they let me go, they told the entire staff in a meeting that I had been fired and the reason why they let me go,” Said Hamilton in an interview with MSNBC. “And then they called all of the parents of my fourth-grade students and told them as well.”
A letter to Hamilton’s attorney, Edward Gay, signed by school administrator Julie Ennis and published by The Orlando Sentinel, laid out the grounds for Hamilton’s firing.
“Jarretta was asked not to return because of a moral issue that was disregarded, namely fornication, sex outside of marriage,” the letter said in part. “The employment application, which she filled out, clearly states that as a leader before our students we require all teachers to maintain and communicate the values and purpose of our school.
Hamilton married her husband, Samuel Treftz, three weeks after she had her daughter.
When Hamilton approached her principal in April 2009, Treftz accompanied her and together they told him that she would be taking maternity leave in the fall. When the principal asked how long Hamilton had been married, she openly told him that they were unmarried.
“It came out of nowhere,” Hamilton told ABCNews. “I was honest about it, I didn’t think it would cost me my job.“
A week later, Hamilton was notified by letter that she had been terminated because of a “moral issue that had been disregarded” on her part. Hamilton and Treftz said that there was no instruction to staff specifically stating teachers weren’t allowed to have premarital sex.
“If there was a contract in place that had a specific morality clause, I think that would make a difference,” Teftz told ABCNews.
Gay told MSNBC that because Southland Christian High School has more than 50 employees, it can be federally governed by law regarding discrimination.
In the lawsuit, Hamilton seeks damages equal to her lost wages for the remaining months of the 2009 school year and the 2010 academic school year she was expected to work, claiming that the incident caused her to suffer “emotional and mental distress, anguish, humiliation, embarrassment and anxiety.”
The school’s administrator Julie Ennis concluded her letter to Hamilton’s attorney by stating, “We request that Jarretta withdraw her complaint and consider the testimony of the Lord.”