BURIEN, Wash. — The president of a Burien Catholic school at the center of a teacher controversy has taken a leave of absence.
Earlier this month, Kennedy Catholic High School made headlines after news that two LGBT teachers "voluntarily resigned." Students and supporters say the two teachers were asked to leave because of their sexual orientation.
"Out of care and concern for the president of Kennedy Catholic High School and school community, Archbishop Paul Etienne has requested that [president] Mike Prato take a leave of absence until the end of the school year," the Diocese of Seattle announced on Tuesday.
"Mike Prato is a highly respected leader, and it is our desire to support him during this challenging time. Please continuing (sic) praying for him, the faculty and staff, and the entire Kennedy Catholic community," the diocese said in its announcement.
Father Bryan Dolejsi, a former chaplain at Kennedy from 2011-2017, has been named as the interim president, effective immediately.
On Feb. 14, Paul Danforth and Michelle Beattie, "voluntarily resigned" from the Catholic school in Burien after telling school officials about their recent engagements to their partners.
"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," read a statement from the school.
After Danforth and Beattie resigned, parents called for Prato's resignation.
In a letter to the Seattle Archdiocese, parents claim the high school has been on the wrong side of too many issues and that “enough damage has been done.”
On Feb. 21, Prato released a statement in response to the backlash, saying he wanted to shed some light on the situation:
"The two teachers proactively came to me in November to share their desire to marry their same-sex partners. We discussed this decision in the context of their covenant agreement, and they voluntarily resigned. I hired these teachers and I care about them very much. I still do. I wanted to make sure they felt supported, and so we discussed several options including the possibility of finishing out the school year...They indicated they wished to resign prior to the winter break in February. We worked with them to arrive at a mutually agreeable transition plan and financial package to assure they would be supported in their transition," the statement said in part.
That same day, Archbishop Etienne visited Kennedy Catholic High School and listened to concerns from teachers and staff.
Etienne wrote a letter to the Kennedy community days after the meeting, saying, "it is abundantly clear to me that our Catholic schools are serving a much broader community than in the past."
After the meeting, Etienne said he plans to create a special task force to look at how to apply universal church teachings locally, specifically under the leadership of the Office for Catholic Schools. The task force will examine how Catholics can remain faithful to their mission in a drastically changing world.
Sean Nyberg, Danforth's new fiancé, said the news about Prato is a step in the right direction.
“The announcement today proves that the Seattle Archdiocese is paying attention to this story. I assume that means they will address the discriminatory and targeted enforcement of their morality clause against LGBT persons. While personnel changes were long overdue, the primary issue has been, and still remains, that the Seattle Archdiocese uses their morality clause to justify disciplinary action against LGBT persons, while ignoring other violations of Catholic teaching. I look forward to hearing a clear explanation for this discriminatory practice," he said.