Pete Cahall, a former wrestling coach who has headed Wilson High School in the nation's capital since 2008, spoke to students Wednesday in the school's atrium. Mayor Vincent Gray and David Catania, the first openly gay man on the Washington city council, were at the event.
"I want to say publicly for the first time, because of your leadership, care and support, that I am a proud gay man who just happens to be the principal of Wilson High School," Cahall said.
The Pride Day was the second at Wilson, the only school in the district to hold one. Cahall told the Washington Post he decided to come out this year because he just celebrated his 50th birthday and because recent announcements by two prominent athletes -- Jason Collins of the Brooklyn Nets and Michael Sam, who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams -- show that homosexuality is now more accepted.
Cahall's students appeared to accept him.
"I have so much respect for him to be able to do that," Tao Marwall, 17, a Wilson senior, said. "It's a very brave thing to do."
Cahall said he felt afterwards "like a ton of bricks lifted."
The principal is credited with turning Wilson around. He was recruited by Michelle Rhee, the controversial reformer who was then chancellor of the Washington schools, and said the high school had no working clocks when he arrived.