Eastside Catholic braces for more protests

by: Deborah Horne Updated:

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SAMMAMISH, Wash. - A possible showdown is brewing at Eastside Catholic High School, as students return from Christmas break to a school without their beloved vice principal.

"We're going to make sure that whatever we do tomorrow is in a respectful manner."

That is how Julia Burns, an Eastside Catholic High School senior, says students will respond to an email from the head of their school that threatens if students walk out of class in protest, they will be tossed off campus, and their parents called.

Burns says they are still working out the details.

"We're still working on what we're going to do tomorrow, yes," said Burns.

"But you are going to do something?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, yes we are," replied Burns.

They have staged protests almost from the moment they learned that their popular vice principal was let go after he married a man last summer. The school insisted Mark Zmuda quit because he had violated his contract. But in a student video, Zmuda said he was let go because he is gay.

"They said it was because I was married to a man and violated Catholic teaching," said Zmuda.

For an hour and a half today, Eastside faculty and staff held a rare Sunday meeting to discuss what they might face tomorrow. The head of the school, Sister Mary Tracy, said in an email Zmuda's interim replacement has been chosen.

But their decision to replace him has touched off a firestorm that shows no signs of abating.

"Because this touches so many aspects of religion, sexuality, education," said Corey Sinser, a 2006 Eastside Catholic graduate. "That's, I think, why you're seeing, sort of, the widespread support."

Burns added, "Until the issue is resolved, until we're at peace, we're not going to stop."

We tried reaching Mark Zmuda, but could not.

The students are planning a big protest in his honor, asking supporters to wear orange on Jan. 31, on what they are calling "Mister Zee Day."