Two popular teachers at Burien’s Kennedy Catholic High School – Paul Danforth and Michelle Beattie – were forced to “voluntarily resign” on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, because they both identify as gay, according to multiple sources.
Both reportedly were asked to resign not simply for identifying as gay – but also for being engaged to marry their same sex partners.
Despite a 2006 state law that prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, the school is apparently exempt due to its religious affiliation. Kennedy is deferring this policy decision to the Archdiocese of Seattle, of which it is a member.
“Both teachers voluntarily resigned their positions. As this is a personnel matter, we cannot comment further,” was the official statement from the Archdiocese.
Reports are that there is a “morality clause” in the school’s employment contracts that stipulates that employees must abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church. Getting remarried after a divorce is also against church law, but many teachers at Catholic schools have gone through divorces without losing their jobs.
Danforth was an English Teacher (and son of former Kennedy teacher Dave Danforth) who taught at the school for around 10 years, and Beattie was a Health and Fitness Teacher who also coached soccer. Both have apparently been advised to come to campus on Monday, Feb. 17 – the President’s Day holiday when the school will be closed – to collect their belongings.
There are rumblings of some kind of show of support for the teachers on Monday, as well as a student walkout on Tuesday and possible boycotts/protests of the school’s upcoming annual KATCH auction gala on April 4.
“Two teachers, Paul Danforth and Michelle Beattie, have voluntarily resigned their positions at Kennedy Catholic High School,” the school said in a statement (posted below). “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. We are thankful to Paul and Michelle for their years of service.”
Below is a Facebook post from Danforth’s fiancé Sean E. Nyberg, showing his bended-knee proposal at Disneyland on Nov. 4, 2019, of which Sean said:
“Can you imagine trying to discourage or dissuade this kind of joy and happiness? The happiest day of my life. ❤️❤️”:
“Kennedy High School in Burien today fired (forced the resignation of) two of their teachers solely because they are gay,” King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove said on Facebook. “This is a reminder of the blatant discrimination that continues to exist in our community against members of the LGBT community. I hope everyone who values fairness and equality is as disgusted and outraged by the mean-spirited action of this anti-gay institution. I am especially saddened by the message this sends to the LGBT students at the school. They may not be welcome or valued by their school but they need to know that their community loves and cares about them.”
Another former area politician, Mark Miloscia, has been openly arguing against Upthegrove online about this issue on a Facebook group called KCHS Parents and students that support Paul Danforth and Michelle Beattie:
“Anti-Catholic bigotry is wrong,” Milioscia said.
“No Mark. Calling out bigotry by the Church is not wrong. It is not anti-Catholic. That’s like saying that people who oppose racism are racist,” Upthegrove replied.
Other community members and former teachers are voicing their opinions:
“These two teachers were asked to resign because they are part of the LGBTQ community,” Susie Alvarez Newberry said in a Facebook post. “How can a school justify religion but practice hatred and discrimination. Shame on you to the administration of Kennedy Catholic High School. These two teachers were outstanding educators, highly respected by their students, parents and the community. What you have done is inexcusable, hateful and disgraceful.”
“As a retired teacher who taught at Kennedy for 40 years this is very disappointing,” Walter Kostecka said. “Both teachers are excellent people besides teachers. I feel for the staff, the students and the parents. Being retired us old farts need to get some sun but believe me if you all do something know that I support you and I wish I could be there to show it.”
Kostecka also said:
“We have a gay and married presidential candidate who was made fun of by Rush Limbaugh yesterday and then I find out what the Archdiocese of Seattle has done to 2 people I taught with because they want to marry their partner. These are two wonderful people.
“Please tell me what is wrong with this picture. Why is it fear and hate TRUMPS LOVE and ACCEPTANCE. Tell me how a corporation like the Archdiocese of Seattle could have hidden pedophiles and then throw good decent people under the bus.
“If you want to know why I don’t go to church there is your answer.”
New Burien Councilmember and St. Francis of Assisi Youth Minister Kevin Schilling posted his thoughts on Facebook on Saturday morning, Feb. 15:
My name is Kevin Schilling. I know some of you in this group, but I don’t know the majority. As an alumni of St. Francis of Assisi and as a person raised in Burien, I of course have a relationship with many that went through Kennedy and work there, but I myself didn’t attend Kennedy.
Currently, I’m the Youth Minister at St. Francis, a dual employment in a way with the parish itself and thereby the Archdiocese. I’m also an elected member of the Burien City Council.
I say these things to make it clear that as an elected Catholic of the city I’m within, this matters a great deal to me. I also say it because I want to make clear that I am wanting to support this group and an effort to open dialogue with the Archdiocese, but wanting to make sure that since I’m not an alum of Kennedy that I don’t want to take away from your organic, community based desire for change.
The Catholic Church’s position on same sex relationships is the one I have the most issue with. The Catechism called homosexuality “intrinsically disordered” (not defending it here but the Catechism also calls economic inequality, environmental degradation, abortion, and divorce as disordered too). But the Catechism, I believe, no longer reflects modern times. And there is absolutely no way to deny that same sex couples express love and support for one another in the same way that heterosexual couples do. The fact I have to type that in 2020 is mind-blowing to me. Jesus wouldn’t have kicked out homosexual individuals. He wouldn’t have removed them from society. They are on the margins of the Church. Did Jesus not teach us all to bring those people in from the margins?
A major conversation in parishes and churches currently is about why people are leaving the church. Well, here’s why. The Church is far too focused on maintaining social norms according to the doctrine, then it is to express love and care for those on the margins, like LGBTQ individuals. Especially doing this when the sexual abuse crisis is still not figured out. I don’t think people leave the Church because they lose faith in God or no longer believe in the message of Christ. I believe it’s because the Church isn’t willing to reexamine it’s established proclamation that LGBTQ individuals are not in step or in line with the Church mainly because their love and their life doesn’t naturally create life (that’s what they teach you in Catechitical class).
I’m here to say that I want to support and offer my suggestions for best ways to interact with the Archdiocese. It’s a shame that this discrimination (which is what it is) continues today. This is a change that needs to be made at a higher level than just the Archdiocese. But the only way to make that happen is to pressure the Bishops. That’s it. They then have to take it to the Vatican. If you pressure the Bishops then the USCCB and the Vatican gets hold of it, then they HAVE to address it. If there’s a mini riot at Kennedy Catholic in Burien, WA, then the Archbishop has to pay attention. Emails, letters, phone calls, sit ins, all of it helps. A continuous stream forces a response. And then, if that doesn’t work, take it to your congregations. Get them to continue the pressure.
The Laity has power. WE are the Church. WE are the Body of Christ. We aren’t the Body of Christ because of an Archdiocese. We are the Body of Christ because we proclaim it. Our reaction is what Christ said when we are the “salt of the Earth” and to love our neighbors. Keeping the framing of this in line with Church doctrine and Scripture must remain.
Like I said, I’m here to support and offer insight and advice. Please let me know if I can.
In communion with you,
King County Councilmember Joe McDermott posted this on Facebook:
“I’m angry that Kennedy Catholic High School has forced the resignations of two respected teachers because they are gay. This action is hurtful to the two former teachers, the Kennedy Catholic community, and most especially to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students at Kennedy Catholic.
“I was baptized and grew up Catholic – attending both a Catholic high school and college. I didn’t come out myself until I was 30 – in part certainly because of the damaging messaging I received from the Catholic Church that being gay was wrong. Today my nephew and his Kennedy Catholic classmates continue to receive this destructive message.
“By forcing the resignations of two teachers over their sexual orientation, Kennedy Catholic and the Archdiocese of Seattle tell young people – especially LGBTQ students at Kennedy – is that being LGBTQ is wrong. Students see their role models lose their jobs for living authentic lives. Such indoctrination harms young people in their formative years in very detrimental and specific ways. For example, LGBTQ youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth. Thus to promote a doctrine and practice that being LGBTQ is wrong puts youth at real risk.
“To be clear, this is not a new position of the Catholic Church. Their homophobia is longstanding and always harmful. This is yet another example of the doctrine in practice today.
“And to be even more clear – to LGBTQ youth everywhere – you are valuable! You are loved! And you will thrive in this world!”