On Sunday, October 3, I wrote a post “Teacher Fired For Telling Student He Is Gay” which told of Seth Stambaugh who was fired when he told one of his students that he was gay. I was horrified when I heard about this, and if you’ve been reading the blog, you know that I am a teacher who is in the closet, but wish that I didn’t have to be. Some places in America will take longer to be more accepting (I live in such a place), but you expect the Northwest to be more open and accepting. That is what made this story so discouraging when I first read it. I was very happy to read an email from a new reader named Phil that informed me that on Thursday of last week, that Mr.. Stambaugh was reinstated in his position as a student teacher. Parents in the school district wrote the following letter to the school board requesting that he be reinstated:
This is a message from concerned parents whose children are in the classroom at Sexton Mountain from which the Beaverton School District removed our appreciated student teacher, Mr. Seth Stambaugh.
We as parents were grateful that Mr. Stambaugh was going to be an additional educator and mentor to our students this year. We were pleased that he had begun to develop lesson plans for our children. We know that he had a positive rapport with our children and that he worked well with his mentor teacher.
Our children are now deprived of that additional educator in their classroom at a time when our school is already struggling with budget cuts to education. We are deeply concerned about the messages the District’s action, and continued inaction, sends to our children: that some people are more equal than others and identifying differences can lead to expulsion.
We are not pleased that we learned about the District’s summary removal in the news, and not directly from the District or from Sexton Mountain. We are concerned that the District and the School made such a dramatic and rapid choice that affects the future of our children’s education after speaking to only one or two parents.
The good news is that this is a repairable situation and an opportunity to show our children that when a mistake is made we must take every opportunity to correct it. We believe that Sexton Mountain, and the Beaverton School District, can be better than this. The first step is for Mr. Stambaugh to be unconditionally re-instated to our children’s classroom without delay.
Thankfully, the school board responded positively and reinstated Mr. Stambaugh. Below is the video of the news story and then the article about his reinstatement.
BEAVERTON, Ore. – A gay student teacher told reporters he was thrilled to have his position back after being dismissed for a conversation about gay marriage.
Seth Stambaugh, a Lewis & Clark Grad School student teacher, had been removed from Sexton Mountain Elementary School following a complaint by a parent, based on a conversation Stambaugh had with a student about his marital status in which he stated it would be illegal for him to marry because he would choose to marry a man.
Stambaugh was reinstated Thursday by the Beaverton School District. His lawyer, Lake Perriguey, said the offer of reinstatement came at an afternoon meeting at Lewis and Clark College.
“This is a huge teachable moment,” Stambaugh said in a press conference Friday. “I’m glad I can be back in the classroom with the students I gained a great rapport with.”
When asked whether he planned to file a discrimination lawsuit, Stambaugh said, “I’d prefer not to.”
Perriguey said, “Mr. Stambaugh is joyous beyond belief. He is celebrating privately with friends and family.”
Stambaugh will resume his student teaching duties at Sexton Mountain Elementary School next Thursday, returning him to his regular Thursday and Friday schedule.
At the time of the incident, Stambaugh was paired with a teacher in a fourth-grade class at Sexton Mountain. He was leading a writing lesson when a fourth-grader asked him if he was married. Stambaugh said no. The student then asked why. Stambaugh replied that it would be illegal for him to get married because he would be choosing to marry another man.
On Sept. 15, the school district informed Lewis and Clark that Stambaugh would not be allowed back as a student teacher at the school. Stambaugh said that he was only told his comments were “inappropriate.”
Earlier this week, 22 parents of students at the school wrote a letter in support of Stambaugh, calling on the district to reinstate the student teacher, whom they said had “positive rapport” with his students.
The two schools released the following statement on Thursday:
The Beaverton School District and Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education have jointly agreed to offer Seth Stambaugh the opportunity to return to his original student teaching placement at Sexton Mt. Elementary School starting late next week. Lewis & Clark and the Beaverton School District will continue to provide Mr. Stambaugh with a high level of support as we do for all student teachers as they begin to serve students and the greater community. We are moving forward with our common values and principles of equity, respect and inclusion.
Thank you Phil for letting me know about the update on this story.
October 25th, 2010 at 7:55 pm
I think what amazes me most is that it was the parents who stood up to bat for this teacher. But the original situation is the norm in public education. You are not allowed to offend anyone at any time. And ONE complaining parent usually drives the wagon. Books get banned, student plays get cancelled, teachers get fired. Thank God there were parents willing to write a letter like they did. I'm sure that probably helped push the school board towards reinstatement since it would be hard to defend in court if a parade of parents were testifying for the plaintiff!Finally! Some good news in the GBLT world!Jay
October 25th, 2010 at 8:17 pm
There are times when I am really thankful to work for a private school. I used to substitute teach in the public school system, and there are so many arbitrary rules that it drove me crazy. Parents are still a problem in private school, but with all his faults, my headmaster stands up for his teachers. So far he has always stood up for the teachers. I greatly doubt that he would do that if I came out to one of my students, but it is the burden that I bear at this point.It is nice to have some good news for the GBLT world. There has been so much bad news and setbacks lately. I fear those setbacks will only get worse after the elections next Tuesday. Thanks for commenting, Jay.
October 25th, 2010 at 8:54 pm
Is your school church-affiliated? I'm in good old conservative Virginia – I'm sure you know what kind of politics we deal with here…I'm in public education, but you'll just have to wait for "the post" (in the editing stage) to find out why I'm no longer in a school, but in a 7'x7' office miles from the nearest campus. At least I have a job.Oh God, I don't even want to think about next Tuesday…screw the country, I'm worried far more about the social aspects. Peace <3Jay
October 25th, 2010 at 10:23 pm
Jay, my school is not church-affiliated, but Christian-oriented. It is one of those segregation schools that popped up all over the South when school were forced to desegregate. Most of them are far more than that today and they usually give a superior education and a safer environment than many of the public schools around here.I will look forward to reading that post of yours.
October 25th, 2010 at 10:32 pm
Ah, the kind of school I would have wound up in when we moved to SC in 1968 if my parents could have afforded it…I'm almost ready to hit "publish" on part one…it got too long for one post! HAHAHAHA, I know blog readers HATE long posts!Peace <3Jay
October 25th, 2010 at 11:06 pm
Exactly that type of school Jay.BTW, I just read your last post and left a comment. It's not that I hate long posts, actually I do, it's just that right now I don't have time to read many blogs.
October 25th, 2010 at 11:24 pm
I gotcha, that's why I broke it up. Part 2 is shorter, but it's still in editing…Jay
October 26th, 2010 at 6:40 am
He could have been like everyone else, gay or straight, by simply stating that he was not married and leaving it at that. If he had used that approach he would not have had to get his job back. He would have already never lost it in the first place. Do you think that a straight man is going to answer “no, I’m not married” and explain why? No. Most kids just want to know that you are married or not and that’s it!
October 26th, 2010 at 3:59 pm
I agree with you Clay, what I would have done is just answered "No." Sometimes the simplest answer is best. A lot of students, will ask that all important questions, "Why?" and my response has always been that "I haven't found the right persons yet." Which is 100 percent true. I had a student a few weeks ago press me further, and I stated that I was in grad school and that until I found a permanent job teaching college, instead of high school, it would be unfair to ask someone to move around the country with me. However, it is all in the way the student asks. If they are genuinely curious, I give them a non-answer or excuse like above, but still don't discuss my sexuality, however, if it is a smart ass asking the question (I teach middle and high school student, not elementary like the guy in this post), then I flat out tell them it is none of their business. I am single and leave it at that.My personal life is my business and it is up to me to decide who gets to know that about me. I was disappointed at how the school board handled this teacher, but as educators you learn that students don't need to know everything. There are better ways of teaching tolerance and acceptance without shouting from the rooftops your sexuality. That is a personal choice and I look forward to the day when it is not an issue.
October 26th, 2010 at 4:40 pm
Those have been my responses for sooo long. But, that's what you do when your "life" or livelihood is at stake.Jay
October 26th, 2010 at 5:06 pm
Jay, We have to give those responses far too often because of our livelihoods being at stake, but we can always wish that one day, that will not be the case.