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December 8, 2013

In love, pregnant and fired

Lawrence Catholic Academy teachers terminated after revealing out-of-wedlock pregnancy


“We were role models and effective educators. We cooperated with our colleagues and were committed to social justice in Lawrence,” said Houlihan, in an interview last week. Above all, he stressed, he and Ferland were committed to Catholic education in Lawrence, a predominantly low-income city of about 80,000.

“It’s certainly not a Catholic value to throw two people out on the street at the holidays,” said Houlihan. “I am not perfect, but what they did to us was wrong.”

Both teachers, who have master’s degrees, were issued their final paychecks when they were fired. Houlihan, a 7th- and 8th-grade social studies teacher, made $40,000 annually. Ferland, who taught second grade, earned $35,000 per year. On Nov. 30, five days after they were fired, their health and dental insurance was cut off.

Ferland, who said she is due in June, has an appointment with her obstetrician Tuesday. She said she has no way to pay for prenatal care without health coverage.

In their termination letters, Hernandez wrote they were fired “for good cause in accordance with the terms of the Lay Teacher Agreement you signed for this academic year.”

“Based upon your disclosures to me during our meeting of Nov. 20, 2013, it was determined you were violation of the terms of your contract,” Hernandez added, in separate letters to Houlihan and Ferland.

Houlihan said he spoke with the Rev. Paul O’Brien about his love for Ferland, her pregnancy and their desire to keep their jobs. But after “the four-minute conversation,” O’Brien told him, “I don’t see you working here,” Houlihan said. But O’Brien said the decision would ultimately fall to Hernandez, who later told the couple their future at the school was dim, they said.

Both Hernandez and O’Brien declined comment for this article, directing questions instead to a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, who issued the following statement:

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