About 300 students from Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Wash., staged a cafeteria sit-in and school walkout Thursday to protest the forced resignation of Vice Principal Mike Zmuda following his marriage to another man this summer, the Seattle Times reports.
The protest quickly spread through social media, and students at at least one other school held similar sit-ins.
-- Alison Morrow (@AlisonMorrowTV) December 19, 2013
-- Julia Burns (@_juliaburns) December 19, 2013
By early afternoon Friday, an accompanying petition on Change.org gathered more than 12,500 names by early Friday afternoon. Says the petition:
The student body is outraged that an incredible administrator, coach, and human being was fired solely because of his love and marriage for another human being. We are uniting in order to change the Catholic Church's opposition of gay marriage. It is time to revisit the policy and act as Jesus would have, loving and supporting every person regardless of their marital status. United, we want this policy changed so that the Catholic Church can achieve its mission of acting with unconditional love in every situation."
The school said Zmuda had signed an employment agreement that said he would abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church and that he had violated that agreement when he got married. Similar situations have happened at Catholic schools throughout the country.
What’s noteworthy about this situation isn’t necessarily the forced resignations. (As private, religious employers, Catholic schools can require their employees to agree to certain lifestyle provisions.) What’s notable for educators, at both public and private schools, is that the protests provide a visual confirmation about how quickly youth attitudes have shifted about certain social issues, most notably same-sex marriage. In general, more Americans have started to favor same-sex marriage, but opinions are shifting more rapidly among Millenials.
In recent years, blossoming movements to support bullied gay teens have given way to wide-scale acceptance and even student action.
Changing social attitudes create interesting circumstances for educators and opportunities for teachers to engage their students in classroom conversations that have personal relevance to them. History teachers could talk about how religious views affected the formation of nations and how the Constitution was structured to respect a variety of religious beliefs. Government teachers could talk about the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act and whether it applies to this situation.
It’s also maybe a good chance for a civics lesson. Some students reported on Twitter that they next planned to take their protests to City Hall. Maybe someone should tell them City Hall doesn’t have any control over this issue?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.