'We're gonna keep on moving until everyone is equal in the church'
SAMMAMISH, Wash. -- Some Eastside Catholic High School students pressured their school president to meet with them Monday after the controversial departure of the school's gay vice principal.
Mark Zmuda's job ended last month, two weeks after the school learned he married his male partner. Since his departure, students have waged a number of sit-ins and rallies and have gained national attention and international support.
Monday's meeting with the Eastside Catholic's President Sister Mary Tracy was a chance for students to ask questions and get a face-to-face explanation of the situation.
"She expressed sincere regret that this all transpired," said Eastside Catholic senior Ian Edwards. "It was kind of nice to hear her say, 'This is unfortunate, we wish it didn't happen this way.'"
Students initially planned to stage a sit in at the school gymnasium , but late Monday morning they opted to "respectfully ask" for a meeting with the school's president during their lunch break.
The students said they were leary of protesting during class time after the school sent a stern warning letter and email on Sunday, warning that it would not tolerate protests during school hours and threatened to send students home and call their parents.
Under the Twitter handle @KeepMrZ2013, a tweet reassured students not to be afraid to demand a meeting.
"Sister Mary won't send a ton of kids home. Power in numbers," the tweet read.
Moments later, the students learned Tracy had agreed to the meeting.
Instead of going to lunch, a handful of students met in a private meeting with Tracy.
"I think more students would have been there, but we just didn't get the word out fast enough. Some students went to the gym thinking we were staging a sit-in," said Edwards.
He and fellow senior Alex Kovar are outraged over Zmuda's departure. Like many of their classmates, they're disappointed that the popular administrator's dismissal happened in what felt like a vacuum, right before a long holiday break.
Until Monday, all the students could do was voice their concerns at protest rallies. They've launched a letter writing campaign to Pope Francis and have an online petition hoping to change the Catholic church's stance on same sex marriages.
Edwards said Tracy told them she appreciated communicating with a small group and that in retrospect things maybe didn't go the way they should have, but insisted the the decision about the former Vice Principal is final.
Edwards and Kovar said she told them she would remain committed to moving forward to find a result that will benefit everyone.
Tracy did not return KOMO's repeated requests for an interview, but she did tell the students she consulted the Archdiocese on the Zmuda case.
"She said she felt a moral obligation to report to the Archdiocese as the leader of a Catholic school, which we understood and kind of sympathize with her," said Edwards.
He and Kovar insist despite their requests, the Archdiocese has remained quiet on Zmuda's departure.
"We are still pushing for a statement from the archdiocese because we were told they played a part in this, which they haven't said anything about. We'd like a statement from them explaining their role in all this," Edwards said.
The Archdiocese's spokesman, attorney Mike Patterson, said the Archdiocese consulted with the school about the Zmuda case and told school leadership it was the school's decision, but that the school needed to be in compliance with the rules of the Catholic church.
Edwards says only seven of more than 600 student met with Tracy on Monday. The students know Zmuda won't get his job back, but they insist they won't let up until the Catholic church changes its stance on gay issues.
"We're gonna keep on moving until everyone is equal in the church," Kovar said.
Asked if the Archdiocese would agree to meet with the students, Patterson said, "That's the first time I'm hearing that."