DENVER — In 2019, Lauren Benner was selected as Valor Christian High School's coach of the year. Just one year later, she was pushed out of the school and her position as the head women's lacrosse coach there because she is gay.
"Essentially, if I decided that I wanted to pursue a relationship with another female that I would no longer be in alignment with Valor’s culture statement, and that I would be asked to leave," Benner said. "It's not, 'You're fired,' it's, 'You're no longer in alignment.'"
Benner said she was confronted by the school's athletic director and an human resources manager in early 2020 about a rumor passed to the department that she was in a relationship with another woman.
"They explained to me that their stance on homosexuality would be that they would ask that person to disassociate — to no longer be able to partake in same sex relationships," Benner said. "That they would be matched with a spiritual partner and would go through prayer and connection to essentially guide them towards a life that would be in alignment with their beliefs that homosexuality is wrong."
Benner said she initially denied the claim she was dating another woman in order to continue coaching and leading her team.
"For me, that was a confusing time," she said. "I had now just witnessed a very firm stance. One that had not ever been presented exactly where the school stood on the matter."
But in the summer of 2020 after the spring semester had concluded, Benner said she came forward to the school to share her story more fully. She told the athletic director about her relationship.
"Essentially, if I decided that I wanted to pursue a relationship with another female, I would no longer be in alignment with Valor’s culture statement, and I would be asked to leave," Benner said."The responses that I received ultimately led to me, without a doubt, 100% certainty and conviction, that there was absolutely no way I could continue on in my roles as an administrator."
The school published a short post announcing her departure. Benner was not allowed to send an email to her students explaining the situation.
"It just it sticks with you. It's not something that goes away overnight," Benner said. "I don't wish that upon anyone"
She waited for more than a year to share her story. Compelled by reports of her colleague, a former volleyball coach at the school with a similar story, she shared her own on Instagram Monday. She says the reaction from former students and staff colleagues has been encouraging.
"I've gotten a lot of messages from students and from former players that are in support, and it's truly been overwhelming," she said.
Denver7 reached out to Valor Christian High School for comment on Benner's story but did not hear back.
Benner said she wants to use her story as an example for her athletes to stand up for their values no matter the consequences.
"It makes my heart happy to know that the people that I thought would be by my side are by my side and are supportive," Benner said.