Photos and videos posted on social media show teens holding up signs that read "do the right thing" and "bring back our teachers," while chanting "we want change."
A Seattle-area Catholic school found itself caught between controversies and student-led protests following the exit of two teachers. Students and parents claim the teachers, Paul Danforth and Michelle Beattie, were forced to resign after they informed school officials about their recent engagements to their same-sex partners. In a statement sent out to parents earlier this month, Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, south of Seattle, claimed Danforth and Beattie "voluntarily resigned their positions" at the establishment. Posting a photo of the statement on Facebook, King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove condemned the move as "a reminder of the blatant discrimination that continues to exist in our community against members of the LGBT community."
I hope everyone who values fairness and equality is as disgusted and outraged by the mean-spirited action of this anti-LGBT institution. I am especially saddened by the message this sends to the LGBT students at the school. They may not be welcome or valued by their school but they need to know that their community loves and cares about them, Upthegrove wrote. According to KOMO News, students and parents have been staging protests and walk-outs at the school and outside the Archdiocese of Seattle since the incident. Photos and videos posted on social media show teens holding up signs that read "do the right thing" and "bring back our teachers," while chanting "we want change."
A student just sent me this video of the walkout from inside Kennedy Catholic High School. pic.twitter.com/RFDB7FUAgR— Steve McCarron KOMO (@SteveTVNews) February 18, 2020
Just some of the posters students at Kennedy Catholic High School are holding right now inside the school as part of this morning’s sit-in.— Steve McCarron KOMO (@SteveTVNews) February 18, 2020
Students are protesting the recent resignations of 2 teachers.
More here: https://t.co/cWva37Boer pic.twitter.com/GChzXJFX0y
A crowd is gathering at Kennedy Catholic High School. Students are expected to walk out in protest after they say two teachers lost their jobs for being gay. The Archdiocese of Seattle says the teachers voluntarily resigned. pic.twitter.com/88Jyr6Uydf— Natalie Swaby (@NSwabyKing5) February 18, 2020
Speaking to NBC affiliate KING, Danforth's fiancé Sean Nyberg claimed that the English teacher "is no longer employed specifically because he and I got engaged." He revealed that he'd proposed to Danforth late last year during a trip to Disneyland and that the news of their engagement had reached school officials. "We entered into an agreement to take our relationship to the next level and enjoy the emotional, spiritual, and legal benefits that marriage provides. However, in our case, Paul no longer is employed because I had asked him to marry me and he said yes," he said.
This is the statement sent to me today by Sean Nyberg - the fiancé of Paul Danforth.— Steve McCarron KOMO (@SteveTVNews) February 17, 2020
The photos below are from their engagement at Disneyland last November.
Danforth & another teacher resigned from Kennedy Catholic HS last week. Nyberg says they were forced out. pic.twitter.com/pdHeehdFaJ
Nyberg further informed the network that Beattie, who is listed as a Health and Fitness teacher on the school's website, also resigned because she is engaged to her same-sex partner. "Mr. Danforth and Ms. Beattie will be fine. They will find a wonderful school and continue to do what they were born to do. But for those kids out there that might question their own identity or feel they don’t fit in, for any reason, do not let this news bring you down or make you feel less willing to be yourself...you are the future of this community and from what I am seeing, the future looks bright," he added.
Just spoke to Sean Nyberg, the fiancé of Paul Danforth. We asked him what his message is to the students participating in today’s sit-in and walkout at Kennedy Catholic High School.— Steve McCarron KOMO (@SteveTVNews) February 18, 2020
Danforth is one of the two teachers who resigned from the school last week. pic.twitter.com/0ppcy1yfwJ
Sean Nyberg, the fiancé of Paul Danforth, just spoke to the crowd outside Kennedy Catholic High School. pic.twitter.com/6q7YCFO7fh— Steve McCarron KOMO (@SteveTVNews) February 18, 2020
Shannon McMinimee, who is representing the two teachers, later revealed that Danforth and Beattie had been hoping to have a dialogue with the school. "They were hoping to have a dialogue with the school about their desire to be their authentic selves and not hide that they were engaged and not hide who they were engaged to. And that -- what they thought would be a conversation with their principal turned into being called into the presidents' office and being told that the superintendent of the archdiocese school system wanted their keys the minute they found out they were gay and engaged," McMinimee explained.
Catholic students in Washington are mobilizing after two of their teachers say they were asked to resign because of their sexual orientations. Both teachers had recently become engaged to their individual partners.https://t.co/LBatFNrB1v— GLAAD (@glaad) February 24, 2020
Following days of student protests, Michael Prato—the president of Kennedy Catholic High School—issued a statement in which he claimed to have "discussed several options" with the teachers. "The two teachers proactively came to me in November to share their desire to marry their same-sex partners. We discussed this decision in the context of their covenant agreement, and they voluntarily resigned. I hired these teachers and I care about them very much. I still do. I wanted to make sure they felt supported, and so we discussed several options including the possibility of finishing out the school year... They indicated they wished to resign prior to the winter break in February. We worked with them to arrive at a mutually agreeable transition plan and financial package to assure they would be supported in their transition," he said.
The Archdiocese of Seattle also released a statement about the teachers' resignation, which said that "those who teach in our schools are required to uphold our teaching in the classroom and to model it in their personal lives. We recognize and support the right of each individual to make choices. We also understand that some choices have particular consequences for those who represent the church in an official capacity." However, parents are now calling for the resignation of the school’s president and principal. In a letter to the school and the Seattle Archdiocese, parents claim the high school has been on the wrong side of too many issues and that "enough damage has been done."