‘Rehire! Rehire!’ That’s one of the chants heard at this afternoon’s student-led rally at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, four days after the school community was roiled by the announcement of two gay teachers’ sudden “voluntary resignation.” West Seattle families with kennedy students called our attention to the controversy over the weekend, and it has drawn national as well as regional attention.
Even before students walked out at 1 pm (video above) in support of teachers Paul Danforth and Michelle Beattie, South 140th Street in front of the school was filled with hundreds of people of all ages, many hoisting signs of support and rainbow flags.
The rally began with the Lord’s Prayer. From there, students took turns at the microphone, voicing both their support for the teachers, displeasure with school leadership and the Archdiocese of Seattle – believed to have masterminded the move – and their calls for change.
One adult took the microphone to huge cheers – Danforth’s fiancé Sean Nyberg.
He also spoke to reporters before the rally (video added).:
He said Danforth misses the students. And Nyberg said he wanted to be there to stress love and support for LGBTQ teens. Also present in support but not speaking, Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta and Councilmember Cydney Moore.
Multiple student speakers both demanded and promised change.”This wasn’t the first time (something like this has happened), but it will be the last,” said one. Another, describing herself as “heartbroken (and) disgusted,” asked, “Why can’t the Catholic Church get on the train? Change has been happening for thousands of years.” Students standing in support included soccer players – Beattie was their coach:
Another promised the rally was “just the beginning.” There was a demand for an all-school meeting so that the situation can be fully aired. One speaker said “the silence (of school leadership) is deafening.”
Though there were rumors of a counterprotest, none was seen, A King County Sheriff’s Office deputy told us about 10 people showed up but quickly departed. KCSO – with which Burien contracts for police services – had bicycle officers there, but the rally remained peaceful.
As 2 pm approached, the crowd started to dwindle; students told us they would remain outside the school until the official end of the day around 2:30, and continued sporadic chants, such as “We want change,” “I believe that love will win,” and “Gay rights are human rights.” Even the school’s namesake got a shout-out:
The school’s current enrollment is 851, according to a KCHS webpage that also notes, one FAQ later, that “Inclusiveness is a priority at Kennedy Catholic.”
-Report by Tracy Record, images by Patrick Sand, WSB co-publishers