The couple sat close together with her right hand clasped in his left hand and her left arm cradling the 8-month-old daughter whose conception cost the woman her job.
The couple’s sin, according to her former employer, Southland Christian School in St. Cloud, Fla., is fornication — having sex before they got married.
Jarretta Hamilton and her husband of 16 months, Samuel Treftz, told TODAY’s Ann Curry Monday that the termination violated federal anti-discrimination laws. In addition, they allege in a pending lawsuit, the school’s principal, Jon Ennis, invaded Hamilton’s privacy by telling other teachers and the parents of her students the exact reason she was fired.
“When they let me go, they told the entire staff in a staff meeting that I had been fired and the reason why they let me go. And then they called all of my parents to my fourth-grade students and told them as well,” Hamilton said.
Ennis declined to appear on TODAY, citing a lawsuit filed by Hamilton against the school. But in a prerecorded report filed by NBC News’ Mike Taibbi, Ennis was asked if he stood by the firing. “Yes, absolutely,” he replied.
‘Didn’t know it would cost me my job’
Hamilton said her problems are all the result of her being honest. A widow with five children from her first marriage, she had gotten work as a teacher at Southland Christian School in January 2008. Meanwhile, she also met Treftz, and they planned a Feb. 20, 2009, wedding.
Three weeks before the wedding, she conceived her daughter, Sarah.
In April 2009, Hamilton and Treftz went together to Ennis and told him she would be taking maternity leave in the fall. She says Ennis first complained that it was difficult for the school to cover women on maternity leave.
“I was only requesting a standard six weeks maternity leave, and as the conversation progressed, he said, ‘I’m just trying to do the math here. When did you get married?’ ” Hamilton told Curry.
School principal Jon Ennis defends the teacher's firing on moral grounds.
1Pfalsefalse“I said Feb. 20,” she continued. “He said, ‘Well, did you conceive prior to marriage?’ I answered and I told him, ‘Yes.’ ”
Hamilton said she answered partly because she was so surprised by the very personal question.
“I was absolutely shocked. It came out of nowhere. I was honest about it. I didn’t know it would cost me my job,” she said.
Fired for ‘fornication’
A week later, she was notified that she was terminated. In a letter sent to her attorney, Edward Gay, last July, the school’s administrator, Julie Ennis, wrote:
That’s a long way from saying teachers are prohibited from having premarital sex, the couple argue.
“If there was a contract in place that had a specific morality clause, I think that would make a difference,” Treftz said.
Hamilton agreed, adding, “At least people would know what they’re getting into. I didn’t know that they were going to judge so harshly; that this was the way they felt about premarital sex. I wasn’t clear what their stance was on certain issues.”