Catholic School Sued for Teaching 'Woke Culture' by Parents Who Made $1.4 Million Donation

A megadonor family of the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa, Florida, is suing the Catholic school for being "woke."

The lawsuit names the Academy, chairman of the board Ernie Garateix, vice-chairman Daphne McConnie, treasurer Kim Dangle, secretary Kimberly Wilmath Hill, the Academy's president Author Raimo and The Florida Catholic Conference.

Anthony and Barabara Scarpo filed the complaint on June 26 in the Hillsborough County Circuit Court.

The Scarpos claim the Catholic school that both of their teenage daughters attended have leaned too far into the "the politically correct, 'woke' culture currently in vogue," according to court documents. The complaint came after their eldest daughter graduated from the school and their younger daughter transferred to a new high school.

"The Academy lost its way, distancing itself from mainstream Catholicism, and embracing the new, politically correct divisive and 'woke' culture where gender identity, human sexuality and pregnancy termination among other 'hot-button issues' took center stage," the complaint read.

The family donated $1.35 million dollars at a gala in 2017 to the school for scholarships given to disadvantaged students and the Academy's master plan, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The donation led to the school's theater being named after the family. As of 2018, the family has given $240,000 toward the pledge, the complaint said.

In the complaint, the Scarpos are asking for their donation to be returned to them. They have also asked for a tuition refund for their daughters' education that they believe was falsely advertised as Catholic.

The court documents show the suit asks the Academy to cease advertising itself as a Catholic institution. The Florida Catholic Conference is also asked to no longer accredit the school as such.

Catholic Church Prayer
A Florida Catholic school is being sued for allegedly steering too far away from Catholic values. Above, a woman prays in a Catholic church in Florida on Sept. 21, 2007. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Academy has denied these allegations, saying they are "false and unsubstantiated." The school maintains what is being taught aligns with the Catholic values the Academy was founded upon.

"The Academy's curriculum is, and always has been, based on Catholic values and rigorous academic standards," Academy of the Holy Names Spokesperson Emily Wise told Newsweek. "The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, the school's founding order, are dedicated to the full development of the human person through education, social justice, contemplation and the arts."

The Academy's lawyer, Gray Robinson, penned a letter in response to Adam Levine, the attorney or the Scarpos. Robinson called the lawsuit a stunt for attention.

"Put simply, this lawsuit is a publicity stunt, and the claims in the complaint are frivolous," Robinson said. "We can discern no motivation behind the lawsuit other than attention-seeking by your clients, and a desire by you to build a brand."

Robinson said the school will file a motion to dismiss the complaint, but if the court agrees to hear the civil case, they will consider filing a counterclaim. The proposed counterclaim would ask the Scarpos to pay the remainder of their pledge to the Academy, according to the letter.

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