December 12, 2014 at 7:28 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay principal fired over student test scores

Pete Cahall, gay news, Washington Blade

Wilson High Principal Peter Cahall came out publicly in June during his school’s Pride Day. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Peter Cahall, the principal at D.C.’s Woodrow Wilson High School who was praised by students and city officials when he came out as gay at the school’s Pride Day event in June, told members of the City Council on Monday that his contract has not been renewed.

In a letter to all Council members, Cahall said John Davis, the chief of schools, told him on Dec. 2 that his tenure as principal would end at the conclusion of the current school year next June because “I have not moved the school forward academically” based on student test scores.

“The decision to not renew my contract is purely capricious and arbitrary,” he said in his letter.

News of Cahall’s termination was first reported Friday afternoon by the Washington City Paper, which obtained a copy of Cahall’s letter and published it on its website.

School officials have declined to comment on Cahall’s letter or the decision not to renew his contract, saying all school personnel matters must remain confidential.

Cahall couldn’t immediately be reached by the Washington Blade for comment.

The Washington Post, which reached Cahall Friday afternoon, reported he was surprised and disappointed upon learning his contract would not be renewed.

“I was hoping to finish out the year strong and go quietly knowing that I have left the school in a good place,” the Post quoted him as saying.

Cahall became the subject of national headlines in June when he announced at a Pride Day event hosted by his school that he’s gay and that his colleagues and teachers at the school, whom he said he had informed earlier, were fully supportive of him and his decision to come out.

More than 100 students and guests attending the Pride Day gathering cheered loudly when Cahall made his announcement.

Among those attending the event were D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large). Both hugged Cahall after his coming out announcement and praised him and others for helping make Wilson High School a welcoming place for its highly diverse student body, including LGBT students.

“My heart and soul is with Wilson,” Cahall said in his letter to the D.C. Council. “However, I can find another school community to serve. When one door closes, many more doors will open.”

In his two-page letter Cahall included 22 bullet point items describing what he said were his accomplishments during his six-year tenure as principal at Wilson, including planning and managing a $120 million modernization project for the school campus and increases in student proficiency in mathematics and English Language Arts.

“I wish you well in moving the school system forward and want nothing more than for DCPS to be successful,” he said in his letter. “Unfortunately, when you have this type of adversarial relationship with the leaders of the schools, I do not believe that success is possible,” he said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

7 Comments
  • So a gay principal of one of the city's best academic schools comes out during Pride Week– to much local, national and even international press attention.
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    Then, six months later, immediately after a mayoral election, said newly-out gay principal is suddenly fired. The pretense? Heretofore unmentioned unimproved "student test scores."
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    Really??? And DCPS expects DC's LGBTQ residents and students to believe that?
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    Will *ALL* DCPS HS principals whose students' test scores did not improve also be fired? And without warning?
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    On each school's DCPS website, academic performance graphs are published. So that apparent homophobic pretense for discrimination can be fact checked against other high schools — assuming one can believe those stats.
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    Whatever their excuse, apparently, for some reason, DCPS' top brass now wish to send a homophobic "performance" message to all LGBT teachers, administrators and students within DCPS.
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    Firing LGBT people is one of the easiest way for homophobic bigots to retaliate. However clumsy, here's what appears to be DCPS real institutional warning to LGBTQs throughout the city…
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    — DCPS LGBTQ non-discrimination, non-bullying policy is just for show. It is
    really meant for voters' 'public consumption' at election time. BTW, to all our school admins … this is an example of the subtle ways you can bully all LGBTQs at your school into silence.
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    — If people get a 'between-the-lines message' that DCPS LGBTQs teachers and administrators ought to be closeted and are not really welcome within DCPS — well, that's perfectly OK
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    — LGBTQ students should also be closeted, and they are not welcome to organize LGBTQ activities. Get it? Don't rock the boat with your LGBT-rights stuff… or else.
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    — And DCPS doesn't want to hear about LGBTQ students being bullied. Pay attention to what we, your DCPS minders, do, not to what we say for political purposes.
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    With all the hope a new mayoral administration and a new City Council can bring to city — especially at at this most joyous time of year — it is incredibly disappointing that we now have to ask Mayor-elect Bowser and the entire Council…
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    "What makes DCPS top administrators now feel comfortable in displaying blatant, retaliatory discrimination against its out and open LGBT employees?"
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    And we should probably take a second look at the Blade's report of re-deployments at MPD-GLLU as well.
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    Are LGBT police officers and other DC LGBT employees now going to be subject to the same retaliatory discrimination Pat Cahall appears to be getting?

  • Even with sexual orientation non-discrimination laws in place an organization can still fire a person for being gay simply using another reason for termination. I hope he talks to a civil rights attorney…

  • Thinks stinks of rotten fish from Hell!'

  • I think the fact that Mr. Cahill came out on Pride Day after decades of being in the closet showed a very strong message to the students at Wilson HS and to the DC community. I was very touched by the story that I heard last May of his coming out. Anti-gay bullying is still a big problem in high school and colleges, so participating in this day was a very important gesture he could do as a leader.

    In this case, I don't think that he was fired because he was gay. I think more likely than being fired for being gay is that he is being fired to make room for one of Muriel Bowser's cronies to gain a patronage seat a principal at Wilson HS. This announcement of Cahill's firing arose after the election and with no real data backing up the supposed cause of firing.

    "From Twitter:
    Kaya Henderson @HendersonKaya 22 Feb 2013
    Seasoned leaders like Pete Cahall at #WilsonHS find the support they need 2 b successful at #DCPS #defyexpectations"

    Check Loose Lips where you can find comments from students and parents at Wilson HS.
    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/looselips/2014/12/12/fired-wilson-high-principal-blasts-dcps-in-letter/

  • UNBELIEVABLE! Something isn't right Councilman Catania before you leave PLEASE intervene in this travesty of an egregious act on the part of the DCPS. And if not Mr Cahill please get a LAWSUIT pronto!

  • "This announcement of Cahill's firing arose after the election and with no real data backing up the supposed cause of firing." – Amy
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    UNBELIEVABLE! Something isn't right Councilman Catania before you leave PLEASE intervene in this travesty of an egregious act on the part of the DCPS. – Efrem
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    Unquestionably, Mayor-elect Bowser can not escape the ultimate, ethical responsibility for actions of her designated appointees. "The buck stops here," as President Harry Truman famously noted.
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    As a candidate for mayor, Muriel Bowser announced that only two existing executive branch departments would have their chief executives reappointed if Bowser was elected mayor. Those individuals are DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson and MPD Police Chief Cathy Lanier. Their promised reappointment by Muriel Bowser was widely reported in local news media throughout the general mayoral election campaign.
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    Accordingly, any management actions taken by Chancellor Henderson and Chief Lanier, or their deputies, even before Bowser is sworn in to the mayor's office, have the implied, tacit approval of Mayor-elect Bowser.
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    A large number of DC LGBT and other residents believe Pat Cahall's firing is an outrageous case of anti-gay employment discrimination and bias.
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    Chancellor Henderson and the mayor-elect are not stupid people. They must know very well how such a high-profile case of anti-gay discrimination reverberates and sends a message of institutional prejudice throughout DCPS — from LGBT administrators to LGBT principals and LGBT teachers, and, most despicably, to LGBTQ students as well.
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    This is a shameful act of anti-LGBT discrimination, and it should be denounced and denied any bureaucratic patina of legitimacy.
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    Let's hope Mayor-elect Bowser and Chancellor Henderson can stand shoulder to shoulder to do that. And let's hope they can reassure this city, in the strongest possible terns, that anti-LGBT discrimination will not be tolerated anywhere in city government for the next four years.
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  • Well, maybe he could move back to Mount Holly NJ and got a job at Rancocas Valley where he graduated from in 1982?

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