Ebola fear leads to resignation of Louisville Catholic school teacher

St. Margaret Mary planned to make a teacher returning from a mission to Kenya take a 21-day leave due to ebola fears; instead, she resigned.

St. Margaret Mary planned to make a teacher returning from a mission trip to Kenya take a 21-day leave due to ebola fears; instead, she resigned.

Susan Sherman, a junior high teacher at St. Margaret Mary School in Louisville, recently returned from her annual mission to Kenya with her husband, and she was ready to get back to work. However, due to the Ebola fears of some parents and staff at the school, the Archdiocese of Louisville insisted she take a 21-day leave, prompting Sherman to submit her resignation.

The Archdiocese initially tried to quell the fears of parents by distributing a letter noting that Kenya is thousands of miles away from any Ebola cases, saying they would monitor the situation. However, they soon followed up with this statement when the fears did not subside:

“In response to strong parent concerns, St. Margaret Mary School subsequently decided to ask the teacher upon her return to observe a precautionary leave of 21 days with pay and to produce a note from her doctor stating that she was in good health.”

By Anthony England

By Anthony England / @ebolaphone

To put this in perspective, Kenya — in far east Africa — is over 3,000 miles away from the nearest west African country with a reported case of Ebola. Liberia, the hotspot of the Ebola virus, is actually closer to England and Brazil than Kenya. Dallas, the site of the only Ebola fatality in the United States, is about one-third of that distance from Louisville.

In a letter from Sherman’s husband to Archbishop Joseph Kurtz — tweeted out by WDRB’s Toni Konz — he called the Ebola fears “ridiculous,” noted that they were told they were no longer welcome at the church, and said the Catholic Church has “returned to the dark ages of fear and ignorance.”

Here are some excerpts from Sherman’s letter:

“During a meeting today with Rev. Steve Pohl (pastor), Ms. Donna Schmidt (community director), and Ms. Wendy Sims (principal), we found that we are not welcome even in church. A direct question to Father Pohl asking if we would be welcome at Mass was met with silence and bumbling rather than an immediate “of course.” When told we would attend St. Francis of Rome, a look of relief came across his face.

We offered to give an educational meeting for interested parish members concerning Ebola and our humanitarian effort in Kenya, but were put off until our “quarantine” is over. The unfounded concerns of some parents (and some parish staff) are triumphing over truth and reason. Sadly, the Catholic Church has returned to the dark ages of fear and ignorance! A great opportunity to timely educate its members is being missed. After all, Jesus was a teacher. I am very disappointed in the leadership at St. Margaret Mary.

While I am recently retired, all other members of our team, including many surgeons and nurses, have returned to their jobs and were met with open arms. Why is my wife not allowed to return to hers? She is a great role model for the children, loves teaching, and should be rewarded for her humanitarian efforts in Kenya.”

Archdiocese of Louisville spokeswoman Cecelia Price would not comment on the quarantine decision or the resignation of Sherman to Insider Louisville, saying they don’t comment on “personnel matters.” However, Price did tell Insider Louisville they do not require St. Margaret Mary staff to take flu shots.

Approximately 30,000 Americans die per year from the flu, which makes one approximately 30,000 times more likely to die from the flu than Ebola.