LGBT teachers 'pushed out' of Catholic high school, families demand reinstatement
Several dozen parents, students, and other community members gathered on Tuesday in protest of the alleged forced resignations of two LGBT teachers from Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien.
At about 9:30 Tuesday morning, a lone counter-protester with a black rosary in hand stood outside of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center. He displayed a sign reading "We support Kennedy Catholic HS and religious freedom."
Mark Miloscia, a former Washington state senator, had come to support the Archdiocese of Seattle at the same time and place that more than 100 were expected to protest the recent resignations of teachers Michelle Beattie and Paul Danforth — both of whom are engaged to be married to same-sex partners — from Kennedy Catholic High School.
"A lot of Catholics are great supporters of the Catholic faith and tradition," said Miloscia who is currently the executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. "And many of us don't want the Catholic Church to bow down to mobs trying to change our religion and persecute us."
Two others conversing nearby didn't appear to be engaged in Miloscia's demonstration; he'd been there for about 40 minutes at that point, without much happening around him.
But within five minutes, a drove of people wielding rainbow flags and chanting "Lancers for love" — a reference to Kennedy Catholic's school mascot — marched down Ninth Avenue, descending on the Archdiocese campus.
Greg Magnoni, acting spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Seattle, wouldn't elaborate in detail on the resignations of Beattie and Danforth. However, he said the teachers' resignations were their own choices and that the two educators were not forced out by the school.
"By that I mean, no one requested their resignation — no one," he said.
Following the initial publication of this story, Magnoni and the Archdiocese of Seattle offered this clarification on his statements: “Other than the fact that the two teachers voluntarily resigned and the Archdiocese has no other comment, Mr. Magnoni’s earlier statement was not authorized and thus, is not accurate. Mr. Magnoni and the Archdiocese retract it.”
But others say Beattie and Danforth were coerced into stepping down as a consequence of their sexualities.
Neither Beattie nor Danforth offered comment for this story. However, Danforth's fiancé, Sean Nyberg, spoke to KUOW on his behalf.
"Michelle and Paul are no longer teaching here, because they were honest about their same-sex engagement," Nyberg said, adding that the two were "trying to lay low because they're both pretty private people."
A GoFundMe drive started on behalf of Beattie and Danforth over the weekend raised approximately $33,000 by Tuesday afternoon.
Kim Ahlf, who has twins in the eleventh grade at Kennedy Catholic, also weighed in.
"I think that the [religious] doctrine can change," she said. "It's changed in the past and there's a lot of things the church tends to believe ... or considers to be the truth that's changing. You can't discriminate behind your faith."
Ahlf is one of many Kennedy Catholic parents who have spoken out since allegations that Beattie and Danforth were pressured to resign began circulating online last week.
"We love Kennedy as a school and this is disrupting our kids' education," Ahlf continued. "But it's worth it to me. This was the wrong decision and there needs to be change."
More than 100 Kennedy Catholic students later participated in a walk-out Tuesday afternoon in support of Beattie and Danforth. They were joined by parents and other supporters on the steps of the high school.
"I hope today not only Kennedy's teachers receive justice, but their students as well. This is a family," said one high schooler into a microphone. Several students took turns rallying the crowd.
Jim Southwell, one organizer of the event, got wind of the "rumor" last Thursday afternoon, after his daughter came home from school. By Friday, he said, he'd confirmed the rumor that "two teachers were being fired because they were gay."
Some other concerns surrounding the culture at Kennedy Catholic have emerged since the resignations became publicly realized.
One parent took to Facebook to point out a troubling clause in a contract parents are asked to sign upon enrolling their kids at Kennedy Catholic.
The contract asks parents to agree, in part, "that lobbying of other parents against Kennedy Catholic and its mission and vision is not acceptable" and that the school "reserves the right to terminate enrollment of [a] student if the school concludes, in its sole discretion, that the actions of a parent or guardian seriously interfere with the school's accomplishment of its educational purpose."
"There are several parents who believe this was in direct response to our pushback on racial injustices and inequities brought to the [school's] attention just this past December," the parent wrote in a Facebook group dedicated to supporting Beattie and Danforth.
The document also compels parents to "acknowledge that Kennedy Catholic has the right to require the withdrawal of any student at any time if the student's behavior" doesn't align with the school's standards.
"I guess a lot of our kids will be at risk after Tuesday," the parent added.
For his part, Nyberg said he hopes students stay engaged in trying to effect change beyond the day's protests.
"I have nothing but respect for the Catholic Church — I think they do more good than almost any other organization around the world," he said. "But, you know, the future of their church is out here protesting ... these are the people that are going to carry this religion on and hopefully they keep an eye on some of their values and their passions."