Eastside Catholic Decision to Fire Gay, Married Principal Leads One Local Family Back to Snoqualmie Valley Schools

Changing your child’s high school mid-year is a decision most parents don’t take lightly.  Pros and cons are weighed.  A child’s propensity for change is weighed. Sometimes certain factors make that decision slightly easier.

That was the case for Brian and Christen Jeans of Snoqualmie when it came to transitioning their 9th grade son from Sammamish’s Eastside Catholicbrain and christen School back to the Snoqualmie Valley School District in the wake of Eastside’s firing of Vice Principal Mark Zmuda over his same-sex marriage; something the school said violated his contract stating staff members will follow Catholic Church teachings.

Zmuda, who is gay, was married in July 2013, seven months after same-sex marriage became legal in Washington.  The Catholic Church teaches and believes marriage is between one man and one woman.

The Jeans’ started their son, Hayden, at Eastside Catholic (EC) in 6th grade after he attended Cascade View Elementary School. Brian and his sister both attended EC and had wonderful experiences. The Jeans’ also had friends with kids at the private catholic school who raved about it.

Christen said Hayden really enjoyed Eastside Catholic, making friends quickly; playing multiple school sports; and liked his teachers.  She said the decision to remove her son wasn’t made hastily and wasn’t easy.

After Zmuda’s firing became public in mid-December, Brian and Christen had daily discussions regarding whether to keep Hayden at Eastside Catholic, as the school’s decision differed from their personal beliefs regarding equality.

The Jeans’ aren’t Catholic and according to Christen, neither are about 50% of students enrolled at EC.  She and Brian were “extremely disappointed with the school’s choice to end Mr. Zmuda’s employment.” But even that disappointment wasn’t what drove them to change schools.

Christen said their decision became clear after the January 23rd Eastside Catholic Board of Trustees meeting where the co-presidents stated they “absolutely” supported former school president, Sister Mary Tracy’s, decision to fire Mark Zmuda.

It was then that the Jeans’ say they realized that since they are not Catholic, Eastside Catholic was not the right place for their family. Brian and Christen say they knew they needed to stand up for what they believed in – and wanted their kids to see what it looked like to do that.

Christen admits that it’s stressful – the act of standing up for your beliefs – especially when others don’t agree with your decision.  But they still moved forward. They weighed everything – and consulted their son about changing schools mid-year.

Ultimately, Christen explained, they did what was best for their family. She also said it helped knowing that both her’s and Brian’s parents, along with their sisters, agreed with the decision that it was best to move Hayden to Mount Si High School.

So they’re back. Christen said Hayden is adjusting well after his first two weeks back in the Snoqualmie Valley School District. She said she is impressed with the teachers and classes at the Freshman Campus – and Hayden is especially enjoying his engineering course.


**  The Eastside Catholic website says approximately 38% of students are not Catholic.


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  • Theology (from the Greek theos – God – and logos – word or reason) is reasoned discourse concerning God. More specifically, Christian theology is the rational study and understanding of the nature of God and doctrines of the Christian faith based on the God’s revelation of Himself, chiefly found in the Bible. If you don’t agree with catholic theology why would you send your child to a catholic school? Why would you have something so important as your child’s view of God, be influenced, at such a young age, by those who teach what you do not agree with? Going to go out on limb an guess that the 50% of the students who are not catholic, have parents who are not even aware of what catholic theology is. The lack of regard for such influence of something so important, regarding ones own children’s beliefs is disconcerting.

    1. FYI — Eastside’s website says that the student body is 62% Catholic, 38% “other faith traditions.”

  • As a gay male who was brought-up in a Catholic environment, I found myself literally yelling at the TV during the news reports about the Eastside Catholic story. I supported the school in this decision, as it IS a “Catholic” school (I mean… “hello?”) Moreover, he signed a contract!

    My response to anyone who disagreed with the school’s stance on this subject, was simply to remove their children from the school – problem solved. And, I completely agree with the comment submitted earlier. Why send your children to a school whose teachings you do not fully support or engage with? That’s truly baffling. Religious ideologies aren’t a trivial matter.

    I found this public outcry to be “misguided,” at best. I mean, let’s be real… centuries-old religious organizations are NOT known for their democratic nature.

    While I respect others’ religious affiliations, I personally do not care for the Catholic church – most of which has nothing to do with gay issues at all. Regardless, the thought that the church (or any school affiliated with it) is going to sanction or otherwise “approve of” gay marriage is laughable to me. I honestly have to wonder sometimes what planet people are on!

    If you’re not Catholic, or otherwise don’t agree with Catholic ideologies, then don’t support a Catholic school! That would be like me going to a sushi bar (I detest most fish), and then complaining about the flavor of the food, and demanding they change the menu.

    In this situation, the parents & students who objected were clearly disconnected from reality. With that said, one truly has to wonder just WHAT ON EARTH they’re teaching at Eastside Catholic that their stance on gay issues was somehow a “revelation” to the parents & students.

  • I went to ECHS for 4 years and graduated with the class of ’91. I went to Eastside when it was still a fairly new private high school and it was about love, acceptance, community, philanthropy and Christian values (kindness, respect, helping others). It taught me, a non-Catholic, about the Catholic religion and ALL KINDS of other religions from around the world. It was not about shoving an ancient, Catholic doctrine down our throats. It was special. It was meant to be a better education than what was to be my public high school but it was more than that. It became a family of people that I still have strong ties to today.
    When I heard about what happened to Mark Zmuda, it didn’t sound anything like the Eastside Catholic that I went to. During my tenure there, there were gay teachers (whether they were “out” or not, we knew they were gay). There were DIVORCED teachers. Mark Zmuda signed a contract that said he would uphold Catholic values. It didn’t say specifically that he should not fall in love with a person of his choosing (in this case, another man) and (not) marry that person. It also didn’t specifically call out people not getting divorced, using contraceptives, etc. I can assure you that there are teachers at ECHS today that have gotten divorced and remarried. Are they getting fired? No. They’re not.
    Eastside Catholic had a choice here to make a stance about acceptance and love – especially in light of quotes from the new Pope saying “Who am I to judge” regarding people who are gay. Instead, they chose to see this situation in black and white, and cast Mr. Zmuda away. Someone who was widely respected and clearly beloved by the student body. A Catholic himself who has been extremely modest and somewhat conservative about his stance on the Church and their views on gays. Frankly, I think the Catholic Church has bigger issues to worry about. Were any of the priests who raped and molested boys over the last 30+ years fired? Eastside Catholic had a great opportunity here to take a stance – and their leadership blew it. Shame on you, Eastside. I used to be so proud to say I had gone there. I used to hope that my husband and I would be able to afford to send our children there one day. Instead we’ll teach our children our values of acceptance, love and kindness at home and will pray that Mt. Si High School will be as special to my children as Eastside Catholic felt to me so many years ago.

  • The problem lies in the fact that Eastside Catholic seems to pick and choose which Catholic doctrines to enforce and which to overlook. Surely there are educators and administrators who choose to use contraception, clearly going against Catholic teachings. Have they been dismissed as well? Any faculty, coaching or administrators divorced? And what about premarital sex? Can we assume that no one in that entire school community ever has or had sex outside of marriage? Of course not – what is so hard to understand is the “cafeteria catholicism” practiced by the school and it’s board. It is these inconsistencies which makes their decision to fire this educator all the more egregious and which ultimately led this family to speak with their tuition dollars and move their child. Who are we to judge?

  • What planet do we live on? We live on a planet with people who use power to institutionalize discrimination. People who oppress others in the name of God. People who use colonialism to “save” those of “lower” classes. Luckily, we also live on a planet with people who recognize persecution, and call it out. People who recognize the manipulation of ideology. People who refuse to be silent bystanders. Though we cannot control the poor decisions that leaders make, we can certainly control our responses. And yes, we can believe that our responses do make a difference. Is it naïve to think that we can really change the institution? Perhaps. But at the end of the day, let me be foolish enough to believe in equity and inclusion, rather than frightened enough to laugh at those fight for it. Let me forever hear the words of those who came before me, those brave souls who shouted straight into the face of oppression, “Off with these chains. The gig is up.” That is the world I live in.

  • Living Snoqualmie