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caption: Nicolas Velasquez, 17, holds a rainbow flag during a walkout to protest the departure of two LGBT educators on Tuesday, February 18, 2020, at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien. "I don't think that it's okay that this is happening now," Velasquez said. "I want to be the change that I want to see."
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Nicolas Velasquez, 17, holds a rainbow flag during a walkout to protest the departure of two LGBT educators on Tuesday, February 18, 2020, at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien. "I don't think that it's okay that this is happening now," Velasquez said. "I want to be the change that I want to see."
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Head of Kennedy Catholic placed on leave after ouster of two gay teachers

Kennedy Catholic High School President Mike Prato was placed on leave following the "forced" resignations of two teachers who were open with administrators about their same-sex engagements.

The Archdiocese of Seattle sent out a memo Tuesday afternoon announcing Prato's leave of absence, which will remain in place through the end of the school year.

“Mike Prato is a highly respected leader, and it is our desire to support him during this challenging time,” the memo states.

Archdiocese spokesperson Helen McClenahan told KUOW that Prato's leave was effective immediately and that the institution is not considering an investigation.

The action comes in the wake of se veral local demonstrations in support of teachers Michelle Beattie and Paul Danforth and international news attention. Attorney Shannon McMinimee, who is representing Beattie and Danforth previously told KUOW that the Archdiocese called for the teachers' resignations and “wanted them gone.”

READ: LGBT teachers 'pushed out' of Catholic high school, families demand reinstatement

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese told KUOW last week that "no one" requested the teachers’ resignations but later recanted. Prato released a statement saying that the teachers' "departure is not due to their sexual orientation," and that they'd been allowed to select resignation dates and arrive at mutually agreed upon financial packages.

McMinimee called Prato's version of events "untruthful." She told KUOW that Beattie and Danforth were advised that their school keys could be taken at any time but that “they might be allowed to finish out the school year, if they didn't wear their rings and kept their engagements secret.”

READ: Archdiocese called for resignations of gay teachers from Kennedy Catholic High School, attorney says

McMinimee also pointed to what she called the selective enforcement of ministerial provisions in teaching contracts, which representatives of Kennedy Catholic and Archdiocese officials have alluded to in defense of their institutions.

In Prato's place, former Kennedy Catholic chaplain Bryan Dolejsi will act as the school's interim president.

Additionally, Kennedy Catholic's former director of admissions Lori Kerr no longer holds her position. She held the role from 2015 to February 2020, her LinkedIn profile reads. Kerr confirmed to KUOW that she had stepped from her position but declined to comment further.

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne said in a statement Tuesday that he’d be creating a task force to look at how universal church teachings are applied at schools the Archdiocese of Seattle oversees.

Etienne added, “this task force will examine how we remain faithful to our mission in a dramatically changing world” and that input from the community would help “create clarity and guidance moving forward.”

Etienne said that he'd visited Kennedy Catholic High School last week to hear teacher and staff concerns. He called hearing these firsthand accounts of hurt and frustration both “helpful and challenging.”

“It is abundantly clear to me that our Catholic schools are serving a much broader community than in the past," Etienne wrote. "We as [a] church need to understand that people in our culture are coming to our Catholic schools with various expectations. However, we must remind everyone why Catholic schools exist. Our primary reason is to form people with the mind and heart of Jesus Christ."

It isn't yet clear who will be on the task force or when it will present findings and recommendations. McMinimee said she hopes the Archdiocese will keep student voices at the forefront of the efforts.

"I think if they've learned anything from these last 10 days, it's that student voice is important," she said. "If it's entirely an internal task force, that doesn't really seem like a genuine commitment to change. But if the inclusion of student voice and parent voice, and viewpoints beyond just the viewpoints that got them to the events of the last 10 days, that would be really exciting."