A teacher was allegedly fired from her job at a Catholic school for having an eating disorder.
Donna Shute wrote about her experience in a blog for xoJane on Nov. 3, explaining that she applied for a job as an English teacher in the fall of 2010 out of desperation — despite being hesitant about working at an “all-girls private Opus-Dei-affiliated Catholic school.”
“But beggars can’t be choosers, and with about $7 in my checking account, my 25-year-old self showed up for my job interview,” Shute wrote.
She went on to explain that before starting the job, her personal life had been falling apart.
“I was trapped in a toxic and emotionally volatile relationship with my fiance, living with my schizoid-spectrum mother, and struggling with my own eating disorder that had been an ongoing issue for 10 years,” Shute wrote.
“I had been in outpatient therapy for some time but knew that I would soon require a higher level of care if I couldn’t improve. I had been to inpatient treatment in 2008 and now badly needed to go back to residential treatment of some form or another.
“The trouble with seeking residential treatment as an adult is the hefty price tag: $1,300 a day if you’re lucky, times a minimum stay of six to eight weeks.”
Despite her disorder, Shute maintained that nothing happening personally was reflected in her job performance.
“I taught my full load of classes and still found time to not only grade endless papers and coach the debate team for their first-ever Lincoln-Douglas competition with other schools, but to chaperone school trips on my own time, assist the drama club in their offerings, and privately coach students (one of whom won, I might add) for the Shakespearean monologue contest,” she wrote.
“I often worked long, long hours helping set up for whatever the fundraiser du jour was, tutoring students one-on-one, and offering a compassionate ear to whatever student needed one.”
The day before Christmas break, Shute was called into the headmistress’s office with a number of other administrators present. She was told that her eating habits had become a concern, and that she was in violation of the “Christian integrity contract” she signed in which she “promised to be a good role model.”
She was told to refrain from purging or restricting her diet on school grounds.
In February, Shute spoke with school officials and was granted a six-to-eight-week unpaid leave of absence.
As she was preparing to leave treatment, Shute contacted the headmistress to discuss returning to work. She was told that it was "too close to the end of the school year" for her to come back.
“I think it would be best for you and the girls if your long-term substitute just continued teaching your classes for the remainder of the schoolyear. You need to rest. Thanks!” the headmistress said just before hanging up the phone, according to Shute.
Just over two months later, Shute was told that her contract would not be renewed for the following year.
“You didn’t really think we would have you back, right?” the headmistress allegedly told her while discussing her termination. "You didn’t really think we would ever have someone like you working here after all this?"
Following the firing, Shute said she received Facebook messages from former students. Two of them met with her in person during the following school year, and informed her that eating disorders had been an issue among students long before she ever got the job.
They wished she would’ve been allowed to return so that she could be of help to young people with similar struggles.
“It would have been so helpful and meaningful, the girls said, to have an advocate to speak out publicly and openly about the real dangers and risks of anorexia and bulimia, and an ally in the hope of recovery,” Shute wrote.
“I apologized to them for having been unable to be that advocate and ally. I would have been if given half a chance, I told them. But the administration had fired me for having an eating disorder.
“‘That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. What we needed around that place was someone like you,’ said one of the girls.”
Shute is now married with a young son, the Daily Mail reports. She lives in Fort Drum, New York, and proudly wears a tattoo of the national symbol for eating disorder awareness and advocacy.