Gay Vice Principal Fired At Catholic High School, Hundreds Of Students Walk Out
Talk about team spirit: On Thursday, hundreds of students at Eastside Catholic High School in Washington State effectively shut down their own school, staging mass protests over the forced resignation of their gay vice principal, Mark Zmuda. Zmuda had been forced to quit after he'd married his male partner in July.
Say what? Well, employees of Eastside Catholic High School must sign a contract saying they will adhere to Catholic doctrine while working at the school, or risk termination. Though former vice-principal Mark Zmuda was not explicitly fired after school officials learned of his marriage, he was asked to resign. The resignation was "a church decision, not a school decision," said another staff member.
But nuh-uh, said Eastside's student body. Angered by Zmuda's dismissal, hundreds of students staged sit-ins and walk-outs all throughout the day Thursday. Even Zmuda got involved -- not to protest, but to reassure his former students. In a video he released to the students of his former school, Zmuda told them:
I just want to make one brief statement and that is to tell you that yes, I am gay. Yes, I did get married this past summer and I know it is against the Catholic teaching. I think a lot of you guys are raised in a generation that is more open and acceptable to things that are legal now in the State of Washington. But, I just want you to know that my personal life is a small part of who I am.
I am first a teacher and administrator. And, I try my best to be an educator to each and every one of you. And, I hope that no matter what happens to me and to the school, that all of you guys will seek a career and work very hard, find the love of your life, hopefully one day get married as well. At the same time, no matter what happens, strive to do your best.
Word of the protest spread to other Catholic schools in the district, and then spread like wildfire over Twitter with the hashtag #KeepMrZ2013:
Even Change.org got in on the action, and a petition inspired by the Eastside protests has already garnered over 12,000 signatures.
The tide seems to be changing in Catholicism's attitudes toward LGBT individuals, and not only among youth: Pope Francis has suggested that the church has no right to "interfere spiritually" with people's sexuality, and encouraged his clergy to accept gay people.
Unfortunately, the church doctrine regarding Mr. Zmuda's situation doesn't look to be changing any time soon. But maybe a group of students can change how their school sees that doctrine: Eastside had a "snow day" on Friday, but many suspect the reason they were out of school had little to do with the weather.