TAMPA, FL. – In a globally publicized legal case between Tampa Catholic parents and an independent, private Catholic school that adopted the “woke” culture in its halls and classrooms, the plaintiffs’ attorney on October 8 pointedly blasted the school’s Motion to Dismiss in Hillsborough County courts in a formal Opposition statement.
The story was published across the political spectrum of left and right-wing major and minor news outlets as well as through special interest publications during July and August.
The case is Anthony Scarpo and Barbara Scarpo v. The Academy of Holy Names and several board members. When the Scarpos’ case became widespread news, many reports pitched politically far-left prejudices against the Scarpos with no clarity delivered on the actual premises of the case.
There are counts alleging fraud, breach of contract, and negligent misrepresentation among others.
The case is not just about how the school’s “woke” teachings sent their younger daughter home upset over accusations of being “white privilege” and being shamed for her parents’ ability to afford to attend the private school (of which she was expected to feel guilty), but it’s about legal matters that affect all businesses and organizations – including religious ones – along with the alleged absence of a mainstream Catholic education that the Scarpos and countless supporters across the nation believe was deceptively presented to them as the core of the school’s teachings.
It’s about a rapid transition to “woke” culture that allegedly occurred during COVID-19’s shelter-at-home phase and how information had led to the allegation that the school unlawfully diverted U.S. government PPP funds that were expected to be used for staff salaries.
And about the fact that although the school is accredited by the Florida Catholic Conference, it is surprisingly not allegiant or bound to comply with the Catholic Catechism or teachings from the Roman Catholic Church. Neither is it allegiant to the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
According to the lawsuit, its board is comprised of secular members. Based on The Free Press preliminary review, although it was founded by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary out of Quebec, Canada, only the first president was a sister who performed during the mid-80s to mid-90s. It is not yet clear what role the Sisters play in the Academy today.
Adam Levine, Managing Partner of the Florida Legal Advocacy Group of Tampa filed the Scarpos’ opposition to the Academy of Holy Names’ request to scrap the case. Referring to Florida’s “Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine,” the school claimed the case is pointless because the courts are not allowed to engage in legal matters requesting decisions related to religious doctrine. This enables the courts to respect freedom of religion granted under the First Amendment and to respect the separation of church and state.
But Levine takes a hard swipe at the Academy’s argument, citing case after case where churches are sued for their actions, including “breach of contract,” which is the crux of the Scarpo’s complaint. Referring to the autonomous-teaching Academy, he also declares that “an autonomous school independent of the Diocese of St. Petersburg may not seek protection under the Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine which is applicable only to schools owned by religious institutions.”
He continues that “this Court is not interfering in the Archdiocese of St. Petersburg or the Roman Catholic Church in any way. The court is being asked to consider if whether Defendant AHN, which has filed 18 lawsuits against others for breach of contract may itself be sued for breach of contract.”
Levine continues that the lawsuit is not solely about the “woke” culture teachings, but whether defendant AHN educated its students about the Church’s stated position on “woke” issues, or whether AHN provided some alternative position (“woke” or otherwise) in the absence of providing the Church’s actual position.
In an interview, Anthony Scarpo had this to say:
“Barbara and I would not do what we are doing today if we did not have massive, enormous support within the community, enormous support from parents, national support from almost every state from here to California, and support from clergy. You name it – we have that support.”
One example of how the Scarpos came to question whether Catholicism was being taught was through an LGBTQ campaign encouraging students to learn how to become an ally of the special interest group.
Absent was immediate reference to Catholic biblical teaching on the subjects of homosexuality, transgenderism, and other socially and morally related issues. The Scarpos are also concerned about other taught matters, such as pregnancy termination, and if related teaching consistently – or ever-present the Roman Catholic Church’s voice on the issue.
Scarpo stated that they first addressed their concerns nearly three years ago in 2018 by going to the Academy’s former headmaster, Art Raimo, a co-defendant in the case, as well as the school’s administration. “This was a matter we felt could be handled internally. And it wasn’t just us. It was numerous parents who were speaking to the faculty and trustees…During COVID-19, parents weren’t allowed to enter the Academy except for a very specific reason and when the parents were eliminated from going inside the school, we believe and from what we’ve seen, the indoctrination stepped up by two times what it was and it became bold and they were emboldened and they were not going to be told what to do. It didn’t matter if dozens or hundreds of parents spoke, yelled, screamed, emailed, or did letter campaigns – it didn’t matter. They were going to do what they were going to do until Barbara and I finally said enough is enough. This is not what we bargained for. This is not what we paid for. You can’t continue to do this. It’s not right. You cannot continue to indoctrinate our children this way.”
Scarpo said he was stunned by communications received by parents across the nation, who disclosed they were enduring the same thing in their own children’s private schools. Interestingly, Scarpo said he does not get complaints from parents whose children are in public schools.
When asked if he spoke to the Academy about how they justified telling their students they should feel guilty for their “white privilege” – students who in Tampa and in the Academy are third and fourth-generation immigrants of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Cuba, he said yes. “They were very emboldened and felt it was their duty, and that this is the way the children needed to be taught. I think they felt it was a moral obligation…(but) Barbara and I were stunned. The Academy is a very diverse school, and I told them that ‘guilting’ the children can’t be good.”
Scarpo also stated that the Academy’s former headmaster, Art Raimo explained that if he had to do it over again, he would still do the “white privilege” seminar but restrict it to only high school juniors and seniors. The Academy provides a co-ed education from kindergarten to eighth grade and an all-girls’ college preparatory education through high school.
The Free Press will report on new developments on the case, which has a hearing in the courts scheduled for December 14.
The Scarpos, as recently high-profile fundraisers for the Academy, raised, pledged, and donated millions of dollars. They are requesting the Court return their donations, nullify their pledges, and reimburse them for their two childrens’ paid private school tuition, estimated around $50,000.
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