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Students walk out of Catholic school as it forces two gay teachers to quit

Students walk out of Catholic school as it forces two gay teachers to quit

  • Hundreds of brave young protesters staged a sit-in and walked out of the school.
Student protesting at Kennedy High School.

Students at a Catholic school in Seattle have staged a mass walk-out after the school forced out two teachers because they are gay.

Officials at John F Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington, claimed teachers Paul Danforth and Michelle Beattie ‘voluntarily resigned’ last week.

Paul Danforth and Michelle Beattie.
Teachers Paul Danforth and Michelle Beattie were forced to quit after choosing to marry their same-sex partners. Go Fund Me

But their supporters say the resignations were forced.

The school’s decision to oust the teachers appears to be in response to both of them deciding to marry.

Danforth’s fiancé, Sean Nyberg, proposed to him at Disneyland on 1 November. And Beattie had also recently got engaged to her same-sex partner.

‘I’m gay! Am I expelled?’

Students responded to the news by staged a sit-in on Tuesday, blocking the school’s corridors. Afterwards, they took their protest onto the school’s front lawn.

The protesting students held signs reading ‘Love is a human right,’ ‘Who would Jesus fire?’ and ‘I’m gay! What’s next? Am I expelled?’

Over the weekend, someone raised the LGBT+ Pride Flag on the flagpole outside the school, but it was quickly removed.

Students staging a sit-in at Kennedy High School.
Students staged a sit-in at Kennedy High School. Twitter

And parents with kids at Kennedy Catholic High School helped organize the protests.

Parents and school alumni joined a protest on Tuesday outside the Archdiocese of Seattle’s offices.

Jen Southwell, a parent of two students, said: ‘When people have injustice against them, you stand up for them. And it’s just amazing that the church is not doing this right now.’

Apparently the school’s employment contracts say it can fire teachers if their ‘life-style is incompatible with Catholic moral values or if his/her conduct is at variance with Catholic teaching’.

Erika Dubois, a mother of a Kennedy Catholic student helped plan the walkout. She told The Seattle Times she knew about the morality clause, but never thought the school would use it.

She added: ‘Would it have been applied if a teacher were divorced and remarried? Or had children out of wedlock?

‘I’m sad about the message this sends to LGBTQ students.’

Students protesting at Kennedy High School.
Students protesting at Kennedy High School. Twitter

Meanwhile, Danforth’s fiancé, Nyberg, praised the students. He told the West Seattle Blog their’ actions were ‘more brave than anything I’ve seen any adults do.’

‘The drive and the willingness to maybe get in trouble is pretty inspiring. And that the rest of the world is watching.’

Fundraising for ‘beloved and extraordinary’ teachers

Meanwhile, supporters are also raising funds for Danforth, who teaches English, and health and fitness teacher Beattie.

A Go Fund Me page describes them as ‘two beloved and extraordinary teachers’.

It adds: ‘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. 

‘No doubt these two will find positions for the 2020-2021 school year. But until then, anything we can do to help ease their financial burden as they face several months without a paycheck will be helpful.’

So far, they have raised $34,000 of a $45,000 goal.

Read what Pope Francis really thinks about LGBT+ people here.