BURIEN, Wash. - Hundreds of students and community members gathered for a rally at Kennedy Catholic High School on Tuesday. The crowd was fired up about the resignation of two teachers who are planning to marry their same-sex partners.
Several students began the day walking out of class for a sit-in protest. Afterward, they walked out of the school building to join others standing in solidarity for change.
“I feel nothing but love and happiness right now for the students here. But there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said high school senior Jacqueline Southwell.
Several students said they believed Paul Danforth and Michelle Beattie were forced to quit because of plans to marry their same-sex partners. School administrators said the two teachers voluntarily resigned.
“Religion or not, it’s not fair to treat people unjustly and make them lose their jobs. Because I know these teachers have lived here and taught at this school for years,” said high school student Maegan Cook.
Sean Nyberg, Danforth’s fiancé, spoke briefly during the rally.
“Ms. Beattie and Mr. Danforth love you and miss you. And they see you,” he said while addressing the students in the crowd.
Nyberg proposed Nov. 1 at Disneyland when Danforth was still teaching at Kennedy. He said both of them are overwhelmed by this student-led movement.
“I’ve been crying, and it makes me realize these kids are pretty cool. A lot of young kids get a hard time from the older folks and everything but they’re doing some stuff that I don’t think any of these adults would have done when they were that age,” said Nyberg.
Administrators allowed students to participate in the demonstration during school hours. Some of their parents took to the streets outside the Archdiocese of Seattle.
Spokesman Greg Magnonni said the church could not comment on the personnel matter.
“I think that all of us within the church have care and concern for everyone involved. For Paul and Michelle, as I’ve said, especially for the students at Kennedy Catholic,” said Magnoni. “Paul and Michelle resigned voluntarily. And because this is a personnel action, unfortunately there simply is not anything more that we can share.”
Some community members showed up in support of the Archdiocese to express their opposition to the rally.
“We have church teachings and it’s for a reason—to make sure we have good, safe, prosperous society,” said one community member. “We have to stand up for religious liberty in America. All the faith believers need to stick together and push back on the people who want to take over their religion.”
While students and community members stood together, Nyberg encouraged the Archdiocese to pay attention to the change they’re calling for.
“I think, though, if they look out here and see these kids who come from Catholic families, this is their future of the church, are these kids marching out here today. I just hope that they realize that,” said Nyberg.
Nyberg said Danforth taught at Kennedy for five years and also attended the school. He also mentioned Danforth’s father taught at the school for 29 years.