Students at a private Catholic school in Washington state walked out in protest after the departure of two gay teachers. The teachers say they were forced to quit because of their same-sex relationship.
At Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington, an English teacher, Paul Danforth, and health and fitness teacher, Michelle Beattie, were allegedly forced out of teaching due to their sexuality. The school had released a statement on Valentine’s Day that said the teachers had “voluntarily resigned.”
“They are highly capable, gifted, and qualified teachers, who have served our community with dedication and humility. Their loss will be felt deeply by their students and the entire community,” the statement read.
However, Danforth’s fiancé, attorney Sean Nyberg, claimed in a social media statement that the teachers were pushed out for being gay.
‘After teaching there for over five years, with a stellar record, he is no longer employed specifically because he and I got engaged,’ he wrote.
“[We hoped] 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,” Nyberg later told KING5.
Nyberg and Danforth also noted that they’d made no attempt to hide their relationship and that while Danforth, Beattie and school officials cannot comment on the situation, Nyberg is under no such obligation and will not remain silent.
After the initial announcement of the teachers’ “resignation,” a gay pride flag was run up the flag pole over the weekend. The flag was removed shortly before the protests.
Teachers at Catholic schools are typically made to sign a contract allowing the school to revoke employment if the teacher’s lifestyle does not match Catholic moral values or if their conduct competes against Catholic teaching.
However, these contractual obligations did not concern the student body with protests starting shortly after 10 am on Tuesday when Kennedy Catholic students staged a sit-in which closed off the school’s most used hallways.
The protest moved outside after 1 pm when students walked-out to meet several hundred other protestors at the bottom of the school’s steps, before grouping at a banner that read:
“Who would Jesus fire? #LoveisLove.”
Catholic-school graduate and protestor, Grace Armstrong told The Seattle Times that these policies and the firing of the teachers directly contradicts Jesus’ message of love.
“When you send your kid to a Catholic school, you pay money and hope you get the message of Jesus in the school.”
A senior student at Kennedy Catholic, Audrey Porter, iterated that messages of discrimination had no place in today’s day and age.
“It was heart-wrenching… I think it’s just that time that we know it’s right and we know we have to stand up and do something,” she told KOMO.
In the aftermath of the protest, a GoFundMe campaign was started on Tuesday afternoon and has since raised nearly $34,000 to help the teachers cover their expenses while they find other jobs.
“Two beloved and extraordinary teachers at Kennedy Catholic High School ‘voluntarily resigned’ on February 13 2020 because of their sexual orientation and desire to live authentically (and legally) married to their partners,” the description reads.
“In addition to the sadness felt by their community of supporters, Paul and Michelle are both now without jobs or incomes. In the middle of a school year it will be difficult for either of them to find employment immediately.”
A Facebook group dedicated to amassing support for the teachers also had more than 5,000 members by midday on Tuesday.