School that goes ‘woke’ gets sued by donors who want money back

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By Kendall Tietz
Daily Caller News Foundation

A family that gifted a Tampa Catholic school $1.35 million several years ago now wants their money back, citing fraud and lack of commitment to Catholic teaching, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Anthony and Barbara Scarpo gave the money to what they previously called “our cherished” Academy of the Holy Names at a fundraising gala in 2017, the Tampa Bay Times reported. They requested their donation be used toward the school’s master plan and scholarships for disadvantaged students.

The Scarpo’s two daughters attended the school, but one daughter has now graduated and the other has transferred to a different high school, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The couple were originally named chairs of the schools fundraising campaign and the auditorium was named “Scarpo Family Theatre” in their honor.

Last week, the Scarpo’s filed a 13-count, 45-page lawsuit for their donation to be rescinded. the Tampa Bay Times reported. They said the school has “lost its way,” with a divisive “woke culture” focusing on “gender identity, human sexuality and pregnancy termination among other hot button issues,” which has been seen in schools across the country.

The lawsuit also highlights the couple’s dissatisfaction with the schools handling of race issues and said students are taught to feel guilty for being white and having money to pay for and attend the academy, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Not only does the couple want their donation returned, they also want a tuition refund for what they have already paid to be donated Catholic charities of their choosing.

The lawsuit, filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, wants the academy to stop promoting itself as a Catholic institution and calls for the Florida Catholic Conference to revoke its accreditation, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The schools denies the claims and Tampa lawyer Gregory Hearing called the lawsuit a publicity stunt in a letter shared with the DCNF. “We can discern no motivation behind the lawsuit other than attention-seeking by your clients, and a desire by you to build a brand,” Hearing said a letter to the Scarpos’ lawyer Adam Levine.

Hearing wrote that if the lawsuit does go forward, the school would consider filing a counterclaim asking the couple to give the rest of their pledge, which may be required by Florida law, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“For a court to delve into whether the substance of matters taught by a Catholic school are consistent with a Catholic education would entangle the court in excessively religious matters, and thereby violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” Hearing’s letter said. “That we should need to educate you on this is absurd.”

Anthony Scarpo said that many parents are angry with the schools lack of commitment to mainstream Catholicism, the Tampa Bay Times reported. According to the lawsuit, the Scarpos paid $240,000 toward their pledge as of 2018 and raised over $9 million for the school. Levine said money is not the couple’s focus, but that they want the school to revert back to the ways they used to teach.

Scarpo wrote a letter to the school when his daughter graduated criticizing the schools “continued indoctrination of your twisted version of social and racial justice, equity, inclusion, sexuality and today’s politically correct narrative has permeated like a stench through the halls of the Academy and been allowed to seep into the minds of our children, causing stress, anger, guilt and confusion.”

“It’s about being a voice for people who are not being heard,” he said. “It’s about the failure to deliver on a promise…. This is not asking the courts to get involved in a religious issue, but this is a simple breach of contract. If you’re paying for a Catholic education, that’s what you should be getting” the letter continued, “you were always eager to solicit our hard-earned money and take what you could but held firm as you dragged dozens if not hundreds of conservative families and teachers through your reimagined, highly progressive world, even as parents and students asked you … pleaded with you to stop, slow down.”

A spokeswoman for the school, Emily Wise, told the DCNF in an emailed statement that the academy can’t comment on the details of the pending case. Wise did say the claims are “false and unsubstantiated” and that the school’s “curriculum is, and always has been, based on Catholic values and rigorous academic standards.”

“We will continue to pray for all parties involved, and, if necessary, we are prepared to defend ourselves in court,” Wise said.

The Scarpos’ lawyer Adam Levine did not immediately respond to request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

This story originally was published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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