Eastside Catholic students protest firing of administrator
December 19, 2013
By Ari Cetron
Updated: Dec. 19, 2:31 p.m.
Eastside Catholic School students took to the streets Dec. 19 to protest the firing of an assistant principal.
Mike Zmuda, who has worked at the school for a little more than a year, was fired because he married a man in July.
Students at the school were told the school was pressured by the Archdiocese of Seattle to fire Zmuda after the marriage came to light, said 17-year-old Joseph Meehan, of Sammamish, a student at Eastside Catholic.
Representatives from the Archdiocese declined to comment, calling the issue a personnel matter.
Mike Patterson, a spokesman for the school, told The Seattle Times that by entering into a same-sex marriage, Zmuda violated teachings of the church, which he had agreed to follow.
Teachers at Catholic schools sign contracts that they will abide by the doctrine of the Catholic Church, which opposes and forbids same-sex marriage, Patterson told the Times.
“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.”
A statement sent out by the school echoed these comments, saying Zmuda had violated an employment contract.
“Mark’s same-sex marriage over the summer violated his employment contract with the school. As a Catholic school, Eastside Catholic abides by the official teachings of the Catholic Church, and as such, the decision to discontinue his employment was determined by the Catholic Church. We are grateful for Mark’s exemplary service to Eastside Catholic and we wish him the very best,” read the statement.
Meehan said he understood the reasoning and that it was a difficult decision for the school, but he and hundreds of other students reject the logic. He said the school also teaches students to respect family, and kowtowing to the diocese does not send the right message.
“Trying to get in the archdiocese’s good favor means having to sacrifice too much,” Meehan said.
Suzanne Edwards, a parent of a current Eastside Catholic student and a recent graduate, blasted the firing. She said she had heard about it the night before through Twitter.
Edwards, of Issaquah, said the fact that Zmuda was gay had not been an issue for the school community.
“We knew. We knew he was married. We knew he was gay. It was none of our business,” she said.
She echoed Meehan’s comments that the school tries to teach students to accept other people, including those of different backgrounds.
Edwards noted that Zmuda was also a swim coach at the school, and praised his work.
“This man is one of the best things to happen to the school administration,” she said. “It’s shocking to me they would get rid of him because of pressure from the archdiocese. He’s a great man who is 150-percent professional. He’s hard-working and he gets stuff done.”
As word got around the school Dec. 19, students showed their opposition to firing Zmuda. Meehan estimated that more than half the student body held a sit-in to protest the firing.
Zmuda spoke to the students, Meehan said, and teared up as he explained he would no longer be working there. Soon after, students marched the length of the school’s driveway to 228th Avenue to protest the action.
They took to social media with the Twitter hashtag “KeepMrZ2013.” The effort was garnering words of support from across the plateau and from across the country. Students at other area Catholic schools such as Holy Names and Bishop Blanchet held sit-ins of their own in solidarity.
Zmuda’s last day was scheduled for Dec. 20, the last day before the school’s Christmas break.