Demand Removal of Teacher for Racist & Sexist Hate Speech in Classroom

  • by: Peg Perl, XCP Class of '93
  • recipient: Sister Joanie Nuckols, VP of Academics & Co-Chair of Theology Department Xavier College Preparatory (Phoenix, AZ), Arizona

Xavier alumnae & supporters (including some who are now XCP parents) have seen and heard about a handout given to students in class last week by Theology teacher Gavin Ahern. We feel the handout is hateful, racist, sexist and goes against everything we hope our young women to be. The handout is filled with racist and anti-women language based on alleged “facts” that are neither true, nor citing any references. Unsubstantiated hate speech is not appropriate in the classroom, and it is in stark contrast to the academic excellence and love for community we associate with our experience at Xavier. Women-shaming and and race-baiting such as this by a teacher in a classroom of young women is an abuse of the authority and trust placed in Mr. Ahern.


We further understand this indefensible handout is merely the latest manifestation of Mr. Ahern’s misogynistic rhetoric against women and their “proper place” in society as stay-at-home wives and mothers supposedly backed up by Catholic theological pedagogy. We are appalled these sexist ideas are put forth by someone entrusted with the education of young women at an institution we believe to have the mission of challenging stereotypes and empowering Xavier graduates as they go forth into our world. 

Perhaps the most disheartening part of this situation is learning that many past and current students, parents, alumnae have been afraid to speak up about Mr. Ahern’s behavior because of fear of retaliation. We understand students have experienced grade demotion for speaking up and heard stories of similar retaliation from other students. Parents and alumnae have expressed fear of raising the issue or adding their name to a call to stop this type of hate-based rhetoric in the classroom because of possible boycotts of small businesses or loss of jobs which may be are at risk from like-minded vocal forces in the Valley that may agree with Mr. Ahern’s statements.

These are certainly not the lessons we learned from Xavier--or your leadership. We demand you take swift action to remove Mr. Ahern from the classroom immediately and take whatever steps are necessary to permanently remove him from the Xavier community. 

From those of us united in the Xavier Sisterhood, and allies committed to supporting the current and future young women of Xavier.

Sister Joanie Nuckols, VP of Academics & Co-Chair of Theology Department:


We Xavier alumnae & supporters (including some who are now XCP parents) have seen and heard about a handout given to students in class last week by Theology teacher Gavin Ahern. We feel the handout is hateful, racist, sexist and goes against everything we hope our young women to be. The handout is filled with racist and anti-women language based on alleged “facts” that are neither true, nor citing any references. Unsubstantiated hate speech is not appropriate in the classroom, and it is in stark contrast to the academic excellence and love for community we associate with our experience at Xavier. Women-shaming and and race-baiting such as this by a teacher in a classroom of young women is an abuse of the authority and trust placed in Mr. Ahern.

We further understand this indefensible handout is merely the latest manifestation of Mr. Ahern’s misogynistic rhetoric against women and their “proper place” in society as stay-at-home wives and mothers supposedly backed up by Catholic theological pedagogy. We are appalled these sexist ideas are put forth by someone entrusted with the education of young women at an institution we believe to have the mission of challenging stereotypes and empowering Xavier graduates as they go forth into our world. 

Perhaps the most disheartening part of this situation is learning that many past and current students, parents, alumnae have been afraid to speak up about Mr. Ahern’s behavior because of fear of retaliation. We understand students have experienced grade demotion for speaking up and heard stories of similar retaliation from other students. Parents and alumnae have expressed fear of raising the issue or adding their name to a call to stop this type of hate-based rhetoric in the classroom because of possible boycotts of small businesses or loss of jobs which may be at risk from like-minded vocal forces in the Valley that may agree with Mr. Ahern’s statements.

These are certainly not the lessons we learned from Xavier--or your leadership. We demand you take swift action to remove Mr. Ahern from the classroom immediately and take whatever steps are necessary to permanently remove him from the Xavier community. 

From those of us united in the Xavier Sisterhood, and allies committed to supporting the current and future young women of Xavier.

Update #43 years ago
The petition has been delivered to XCP faculty and administration. Unfortunately, the lack of response to parents who raised this concern has led to some families choosing not to continue at the school. We hope these stories send a message that cannot be ignored and the XCP administration reconsiders its support of this teacher. Even if that does not happen, we know we made a difference by shining a light on this unacceptable behavior and creating a safe space for students to tell their stories.
Update #33 years ago
Wow! Thanks to everyone:over 3000 signatures! This link has been shared in emails to some XCP individuals so they can see the live results & delivery of all of your support to the administration as a demand for action is being planned. I started this petition in order to give people a voice, & the comments touch my heart: those who feel the need to remain anonymous, those who proudly state their name & class year, and allies across the country & globe. Be strong & thank you again. [-Peg]
Update #23 years ago
Thanks everyone - we are over 1000 signatures and haven't delivered yet because the numbers kept growing. Spread the word especially to local AZ folks (which will help) and if you are an alum please put your class year in the comments!!!
Update #13 years ago
Just an update, the school has not commented on the situation yet despite parent phone calls and requests for meetings. Now that the petition hit 300, we downloaded and plan to deliver to the school to see if it will generate action. BUT THE PETITION REMAINS----we will download and deliver again with additional names.

Thank you for your support and for the comments - It seems like many young women have been harmed by this teacher and it is time to put a stop to it.
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