A couple who bequeathed $1.35 million to a Tampa, Florida, Catholic high school wants their money back, stating in a lawsuit that the school was inculcating “woke culture” where “gender identity, human sexuality and pregnancy termination among other hot button issues” were prioritized.
In 2017, Anthony and Barbara Scarpo, who have a daughter who graduated from Academy of the Holy Names and another who has transferred to a different high school, pledged $1.35 million to the school at a fundraising gala. The money was intended to support the school’s master plan and for scholarships for disadvantaged students, the Tampa Bay Times reported, adding, “They were named chairs of the academy’s fundraising campaign and the school renamed its auditorium the ‘Scarpo Family Theatre.’”
But now the Scarpos want their pledge to be rescinded; the lawsuit, which also asks that the tuition the Scarpos paid be redirected to Catholic charities of their choice, states that white students are encouraged to feel guilty about their color and their family’s wealth.
“It also asks that the academy be stopped from advertising itself as a Catholic institution and for the Florida Catholic Conference to stop accrediting the school,” the Tampa Bay Times noted.
After his older daughter’s graduation from the school, Anthony Scarpo fired off a letter to the school in which he wrote:
The continued indoctrination of your twisted version of social and racial justice, equity, inclusion, sexuality and today’s politically correct narrative has permeated like a stench through the halls of the Academy and been allowed to seep into the minds of our children, causing stress, anger, guilt and confusion. You were always eager to solicit our hard-earned money and take what you could but held firm as you dragged dozens if not hundreds of conservative families and teachers through your reimagined, highly progressive world, even as parents and students asked you … pleaded with you to stop, slow down.
The lawsuit cites a letter written by Art Raimo, then-president of the academy, and Ernie Garateix, chairman of the school’s board, regarding the creation of a justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion committee. The lawsuit states that the letter did not “recognize the harm to their White, non-Diverse students by making them believe that they and their families are personally responsible for the historic harm(s) some members of our society have visited on other members of our society.” The lawsuit also asserts that parents were unhappy about a blackboard in the school that instructed how to ally with the LGBTQ community. “The Scarpos say the message ‘utterly fails to put any part of this explanation into perspective within mainstream Catholicism,” the Tampa Bay Times wrote.
Academy of the Holy Names Spokesperson Emily Wise told Newsweek, “The Academy’s curriculum is, and always has been, based on Catholic values and rigorous academic standards. The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, the school’s founding order, are dedicated to the full development of the human person through education, social justice, contemplation and the arts.”
A letter written by an attorney for the school to the Scarpos’ attorney, Adam Levine, stated, “We can discern no motivation behind the lawsuit other than attention-seeking by your clients, and a desire by you to build a brand. For a court to delve into whether the substance of matters taught by a Catholic school are consistent with a Catholic education would entangle the court in excessively religious matters, and thereby violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That we should need to educate you on this is absurd.”
Levine said, “It’s about being a voice for people who are not being heard. It’s about the failure to deliver on a promise…. This is not asking the courts to get involved in a religious issue, but this is a simple breach of contract. If you’re paying for a Catholic education, that’s what you should be getting.”