EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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December 12, 2013

Fired teachers ready for legal action

LAWRENCE — Sean Houlihan and Natalie Ferland, who were fired from Lawrence Catholic Academy after revealing they were having a child before getting married, have retained an attorney and are pursuing legal action against the school.

Attorney Anthony DiFruscia of Lawrence said his first step is requesting their personnel files from the school. “Then we will be pursuing possible wrongful termination action,” DiFruscia said.

Houlihan, 34, and Ferland, 26, were fired on Nov. 25 after revealing their relationship and pregnancy. Ferland is due in June. The couple have previously said they do not want their jobs back at the Parker Street school. However, they do want the terminations on their records changed to resignations so they can find other jobs in education, they said.

School Principal Jorge Hernandez issued both teachers termination letters, saying they were fired for violating their contracts with Lawrence Catholic Academy.

Hernadez and the Rev. Paul O’Brien, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish, have declined to comment publicly on the firings. Citing employee confidentiality, the Archdiocese of Boston, which oversees Lawrence Catholic Academy and St. Patrick’s, has declined to directly comment on the terminations. The Archdiocese did release a statement saying Lawrence Catholic Academy teachers sign an agreement saying they will “adhere to the teachings and principles of the Catholic Church, among other criteria essential for employment.”

While the school claims to have fired Houlihan and Ferland for good cause, DiFruscia questions whether it’s “legal cause,” he said. DiFruscia offered to represent the couple at no cost after reading an Eagle-Tribune story Sunday about the couple.

Both teachers have master’s degrees. Houlihan earned $40,000 annually in his fourth year teaching there. Ferland, in her second year at the school, earned $35,000. The school stopped paying for their health and dental benefits five days after they were fired.

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