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Students and faculty at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish protested this morning after learning their popular vice principal resigned after school officials learned he had married his male partner.
The protest spread via Twitter and text messaging to other students at area Catholic high schools.
At at least one — Seattle Preparatory School — students showed solidarity with a similar sit-in protest.
Officials at Seattle Prep notified parents that staff members had discussed the situation at Eastside Catholic with students.
“Diversity Director, Heidi Kim, moderated a discussion with our students,” according to the statement to Seattle Prep parents. “Following that, Principal Maureen Reid asked students to return to class, where they were able to take up the discussion with their classmates and instructors.”
According to an online blog, Eastside Catholic vice principal Mark Zmuda married Dana Jergens at a ceremony at the Golf Club at Newcastle last July — seven months after same-sex marriage became legal in this state.
One student at Eastside Catholic said the entire student body was protesting; students either walked out of class or never went. Many were crying along with their teachers.
Students said they were told the decision to fire Zmuda was made by the Archdiocese of Seattle. They said they and students from other Catholic schools within the diocese planned to collect and submit signatures hoping to win Zmuda his job back.
Mike Patterson, spokesman for Eastside Catholic, said that by entering into a same-sex marriage, Zmuda violated teachings of the church, which he had agreed to follow.
Teachers at Catholic schools, Patterson said, sign contracts that they will abide by the doctrine of the Catholic Church, which opposes and forbids same-sex marriage.
“We just learned about it,” Patterson said of Zmuda’s marriage. “He understood he could no longer be employed there because of his current circumstances.”
At a rally at Eastside Catholic, one student questioned the decision, given Pope Francis’ recent statements regarding homosexuality.
“Just because I’m Catholic doesn’t mean I need to believe every rule the Church has,” freshman Sophia Cerino said. “We think the rule over gay marriage is totally unfair. Everyone seems to think the same thing – that we should all be treated equal.”
Zmuda holds a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He has been a mathematics teacher, department chair and handled a variety of administrative roles at the middle- and high-school levels over the past 13 years, according to an online biography. Before joining Eastside Catholic, he taught at Cardinal Gibbons School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Cerino said Zmuda, who was also the high-school swim coach, was a kind person who cared about the students.
While students were protesting on the street, she said, Zmuda came to talk to them about what had happened. “He told us he had gotten fired because he is gay and married. He told us to grow up, get a job and find true love. He was crying and told us what we were doing meant a lot to him.”