Shoreline parents gather for same-sex teacher whose contract was not renewed

SHORELINE, Wash. — Parents rallied in Shoreline Monday morning as a community remains divided over a teacher’s contract not being renewed at St Luke’s Catholic School.

The teacher was told she would not be allowed to return to her teaching position after it was revealed that they had a same-sex partner.

Early Monday morning, as kids were dropped off at school, a number of parents gathered holding hands in a circle at one of the entryways to the church.

The group recited prayers and sang hymns and tried to show some level of unity regarding the issue of Karen Pala, whose contract is not being renewed.

The parents are praying and hoping for peace and understanding.

But they also admit that it has been a tough time since kindergarten teacher Karen Pala told them she was being forced out, after the church found out Pala was engaged to a woman.

Parents on both sides of the issue linked hands – and joined together, but opinions remain split.

Pilar Griffin was part of the group and gave her take on the teacher being told she would not be back.

“When we teachers sign a contract we already know what are the teachings of the Catholic church, so we understand if you are not following those teachings. There is no covenant,” said Griffin.

Lawyers for Pala say she will appeal the decision by St. Luke’s Father Brad to get rid of her over the same-sex relationship.

That appeal would be made to the archbishop, and some parents are already lobbying for her to return, including Michael Spadea, a parent with children at the Catholic school.

“Our ask is that archbishop reinstate her as a teacher and that going forward these decisions are not made on the basis of sexual orientation,” Spadea said.

Whitney Hicks, also a Saint Luke’s parent, stood with Spadea and echoed his sentiments.

“She’s a beloved teacher at our school. She has done so much for our community. I think this is absolutely awful.”

KIRO 7 obtained a letter from Father Brad which said:

“Part of the pastor’s role is to determine whether a minister’s public life might not be in alignment with Church teaching,” defending the dismissal of Pala.

Hicks does not agree.

“Those covenants are written broadly. Each parish interprets them differently. If you go to other parishes, like in Seattle, you’ll find support for the LGBTQ community – this is one priest operating with authority,” said Hicks.

While the situation appears to still be divisive - Pride flags adorn some fences right across from the school, showing where some residents stand. The prayer circle Monday morning was meant to foster peace and provide an example for students and parents concerned over losing a teacher.

Lara Bain is involved with a parent group that formed after discovering that Pala would not return.

The group is called LUKE, and she says the values of many in the community are simple: “We believe in love, unity, kindness and equality -- we support inclusivity.”

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