The abrupt and mysterious firing of a respected math teacher at DC’s elite Gonzaga College High School has left parents with many more questions than answers. In a February 17 e-mail to parents at the all-boys Jesuit institution, school president Rev. Stephen W. Planning said that the teacher, Michael Davis, was fired for “failure to maintain expected professional boundaries between teacher and student.” In his e-mail, Planning said, “When this was first brought to my attention, Mr. Davis was placed on administrative leave, and I notified public authorities.”
Even though authorities determined that the alleged conduct was not criminal and that it did not involve any students presently enrolled at Gonzaga, Planning wrote in his e-mail that he terminated Davis’s employment after consulting with other administrators.
According to several parents of current and former Gonzaga students, the school administration has not provided any details of what occurred or what Davis may have been accused of, nor does Planning’s letter to parents offer any specifics. “I have no idea of the nature of what happened,” said a parent of a current student. “That’s between Mr. Davis and the school.” Another parent said, “They are keeping a very tight lid on it.”
Planning declined to offer any further details about Davis’s termination when contacted by The Washingtonian. “We have said everything that we are going to be able to say regarding this,” he said in an e-mail.
Attempts to reach Davis today were unsuccessful.
Former Gonzaga students, as well as current parents, said Davis was a revered math teacher who had been with the school for a number of years. One former student called him a “family man” and said that when Davis’s son graduated from Gonzaga, his father handed him his diploma. The source called the news “shocking, given who it is.” One parent of a current Gonzaga student said, “I think the world of Mike Davis. He is one of the most genuinely compassionate, intelligent, and student-friendly teachers I have ever come in contact with.”
In his statement, which revealed few details, Planning said, “I know that a situation like this is painful for those involved, and for the Gonzaga community at large. Situations such as these lead to a strong desire for information to help address the many questions and intense emotions that may arise.”
Gonzaga opened for classes in 1821. It was originally called the Washington Seminary. It is located on North Capitol Street between H and K streets, Northwest, not far from the Capitol.
The full text of Planning’s February 17 statement appears below.
Dear Gonzaga Community:
I am writing to inform you of a very difficult decision. In consultation with the Gonzaga administration, I have terminated the employment of Mr. Michael Davis this week, who has taught at Gonzaga for many years, for failure to maintain expected professional boundaries between teacher and student. When this was first brought to my attention, Mr. Davis was placed on administrative leave, and I notified public authorities, who advised that no criminal conduct was involved. This situation does not involve any students presently enrolled at Gonzaga.
I know that a situation like this is extremely painful for those involved, and for the Gonzaga community at large. Situations such as these lead to a strong desire for information to help address the many questions and intense emotions that may arise. This desire for more information stems from our love for Gonzaga, its people, and its mission. However, in the interest of preserving the privacy of all involved, no further information will be given at this time. Please respect this.
Any concerns about this matter should be directed to my office. Also, if you ever have any concerns about the professional conduct of any Gonzaga faculty or staff, present or past, I encourage you to contact my office or another member of the Gonzaga administration.
I am quite aware of how difficult this situation is for the Gonzaga community. I ask that you please pray for our Gonzaga community and for all involved in this difficult situation. May God bless you all.
Fr. Stephen W. Planning, SJ