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Students Protest Decision : School Bars Pregnant Girl From Graduation

May 24, 1986|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

Lisa Martinez is a straight-A student at Mary Star of the Sea High School in San Pedro.

She is vice president of the student body, last year's homecoming princess, a member of the National Honor Society and captain of the flag team. She has been accepted to study biological sciences this fall at USC.

But because she is 6 1/2 months pregnant and unmarried, she won't be at her high school graduation on June 6. Officials of the private Roman Catholic school have forbidden the 17-year-old senior to attend the commencement ceremony and graduation Mass.

"People make mistakes," said Lisa, who has appealed to the school to allow her to attend her graduation. "I already have been punished enough. I have put my parents through the shame, and I have had to change my life style. Which is more important, the value of not condoning premarital sex or the sacrament of forgiveness?"

No Response

Administrators at the school and Msgr. Patrick Gallagher, head of the Mary of the Sea parish, did not return phone calls Friday.

But in a written statement, Principal Carolyn Quijano defended the school's decision as being in line with teachings of the church, which considers premarital sex a sin.

Students at Mary Star have presented petitions to school authorities supporting their classmate's position and on Friday staged a boycott of classes. Richard Scandaliato, 17, a senior and Lisa's friend, said a group of seniors organized the boycott, but members of all four classes participated.

"This is a Catholic school, and I think it should forgive and forget," Scandaliato said.

A member of the parish, who asked not to be identified, said some parents joined Friday's protest.

"This is literally the talk of the town," the parishioner said. "Some students are talking about taking their caps and gowns off and walking out of the ceremony in protest. Most of the congregation is very upset."

In her statement, Quijano said the girl agreed not to participate in the graduation exercises as a condition of completing her education and receiving her diploma from Mary Star.

Not Approval

"The school has tried to show forgiveness and support of Lisa in her decision to carry her baby," Quijano said. "But forgiveness and empathy do not mean approval."

Quijano said Lisa also agreed not to to go with friends to Grad Night at Disneyland or to attend last Wednesday's awards banquet (Her mother was permitted to accept the honors for her).

But the girl said her agreements were not voluntary.

"They gave me an ultimatum--either leave school or agree not to attend school functions--including graduation. I was really kind of forced, because she (Quijano) knew how much I wanted to stay.

"It was either say yes or get kicked out. . . ."

A self-described devout Catholic, Lisa said she never considered having an abortion, because of the teachings of the church, which forbids abortions.

"I respect the church, because they are pro-life," she said. "If they don't change their mind on this, then I will just have to accept it. Just like Christ accepted a lot of letdowns for what he believed in."

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