🔴 The Diocese of Manchester issued a letter Friday about St. Thomas Aquinas

🔴 The letter addresses some concerns raised by an alumni online petition

🔴 A new principal takes over at St. Thomas on July 1

The Diocese of Manchester has weighed in on the decision not to renew the contracts of some teachers and staff members for the 2023-24 academic year, and reiterated they are not related to support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Parent groups and students insist the reason the teachers were not brought back was because they supported members of the LGBTQ+ community. Principal Paul Marquis repeatedly denied the allegation and said it was "customary at this time of year" to provide all teachers and staff with letters of intent before contracts are offered and signed for the next school year.

The Diocese of Manchester issued a letter obtained by Seacoast Current from David Thibault, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese, reiterating that decisions about contract renewals were not based on support of the LGBTQ community. Speculation about why contracts were not renewed is an effort by some to "fill in the gap" to understand the decisions, Thibault said.

"If a member of our school community asserts a specific sexual identity or an identity that does not match his or her biological sex, we will continue to minister to and accompany those individuals as we always have," Thibault wrote. "Questions regarding human sexuality are not political issues or arguments, nor do we see them as such. The Catholic Church has a beautiful pastoral response to students and families who may struggle with Her teachings regarding human sexuality. Our faith teaches us that God is the Creator of all things, and just as He, our heavenly Father, loves us unconditionally, each of us in turn is called to an unconditional love for every other human person. “This is my commandment. Love one another as I love you” (John 15:12)."

Facts about St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover
Facts about St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover (Townsquare Media)

New Principal on July 1

The letter mentions the school will have a new principal, Dr. Michael Orlando, effective July 1. According to a news release provided to the Newburyport Daily News, Orlando spent 17 years at St. John's Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts.  Marquis was promoted to school president.

The announcement is not posted on the school's website, and the school has not directly responded to inquiries from Seacoast Current.

St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover
St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover (Townsquare Media)

Concern From Alumni

The academic year has ended at the school, and alumni looking towards September posted an online petition accusing the school's current leadership of turning its back on the principals of "speaking truth to power as we cultivated our burgeoning critical thinking skills and intellectual curiosity."

"STA was always a safe space for thoughtful debate on controversial issues, no matter one’s background. These practices prepared us well for life after high school, in the myriad ways we all contribute to society today," reads the petition.

The petition says the current administration has dismissed teachers who respected students preferred pronouns in an effort to "intimidate" the rest of the faculty into silence, pressured student leaders to speak out, and would present the controversial “Person and Identity” gender ideology material.

"The actions and statements of the school administration over the last year appear to be truly contrary to our professed – and practiced – moral creed. In addition, it has become apparent that the governance of the school has grown increasingly insular, and will abide no dissension in its ranks or otherwise," the petition reads.

A recent Boston Globe report said the school requested Dover Police come to the school in order to keep the media away from students, and revoked outdoor lunch for students.

Among the demands of the alumni petition: Marquis to be fired, the removal the members of the Board of Trustees of St Thomas Aquinas High School from all positions of trust and oversight, a neutral third party review the decisions to end employment for staff members, create a faculty senate, dissolve the present corporation delegated authority over St Thomas Aquinas High School, and issue apologies to the students, alumni, and public.

Cover of the book Brave New World
Cover of the book Brave New World (Barnes & Noble)

Book No Longer Required Reading

Thibault addressed one of the concerns of the petition's concerns, the removal of Aldous Huxley’s book "Brave New World" from the curriculum. Accoding to the petition, it was been "integral to the English Department at STA for the last 30+ years."

Thibault said the book, which was required reading for sophomores, was moved to the "suggested reading list" for the upcoming school year because of concerns about the "suicidal themes strongly present throughout the book." The superintendent cited CDC statistics that that nearly 57% of teenage girls in the United States felt persistently sad or hopeless, and nearly 30% have seriously considered attempting suicide.

"These are concerning statistics and out of an abundance of care for our students along with ourcommitment to authentically partnering with parents, and to limit exposure to suicidal ideation, that the 'mandatory' book listing was changed," Thibault wrote.

According to the Barnes and Noble website description of the book, it is a "profoundly important classic of world literature."

"'Brave New World' is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically-advanced future where humans are genetically bred, socially indoctrinated, and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively uphold an authoritarian ruling order—all at the cost of our freedom, full humanity, and perhaps also our souls," reads the website.

The book was also made into a movie in 1980 and 1998. It was also a series on the Peacock streaming service in 2020, but canceled after one season.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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