Beaverton student teacher alleges discriminatory firing for being gay

Seth Stambaugh. Photo by Leo Qin / Pioneer Log

In many places in the United States it is all to common to be fired for being gay. But here in Oregon we are used to non-discrimination policies and laws on the books. So it’s particularly shocking and disappointing to see student teacher fired from his position at Sexton Mountain Elementary in nearby Beaverton.

Lewis and Clark college graduate student in teaching Seth Stambaugh was placed in Beaverton as a student teacher for a 4th and 5th grade class. Soon after his appointment he was called aside for dressing inappropriately when a parent complained, even though the outfit consisted of pressed slacks, a button-up oxford shirt, and a cardigan, according to Lake Perriguey, a lawyer who is now working pro-bono of Stambaugh. Later in the week that same parent threatened to remove his child following a conversation about marriage.

From The Mercury:

Later in the week, Stambaugh was leading a journaling activity in the classroom when one of the students asked whether Stambaugh was married. Stambaugh said he was not and, when the student asked why, replied that it would be illegal for him to get married because he “would choose to marry another guy.” The student pressed further, asking if that meant Stambaugh liked to hang out with guys and Stambaugh responded, “Yeah.” That was the end of the conversation.

In fact, Beaverton School District does have a nondiscrimination policy though they are attempting to distance themselves from the homophobia. Spokesperson for the district, Maureen Wheeler, reiterates that, “The district’s policy and practice is nondiscrimination. We seek diversity in our hiring and we create safe and inclusive environment for students and staff.” Although she is also quick to point out that Stambaugh was never technically an employee of the school district, since he was working through Lewis and Clark, and therefore it’s not accurate to say he was “fired.”

But Lewis and Clark officials see it differently:

Lewis and Clark spokeswoman Jodi Heintz says there’s a “discrepancy” in Beaverton School District’s characterization of the incident. “We categorically deny that we had the final call on what happened with Seth,” says Heintz. Instead, Lewis and Clark received a phone call that Stambaugh had been removed from the school. Usually when there is a conflict between a student teacher and a school, someone from Lewis and Clark sits down and talks it out with the school. In this case, there was no discussion, says Heintz. “The fact that we were completely cut out of the process was an aberration,” she says.

Stembaugh is currently looking for another position as well as exploring his options.

6 comments to Beaverton student teacher alleges discriminatory firing for being gay

  • Any time you are outside what is accepted as the norm you are going to be under scrutiny for what ever you say or do. You are under a different standard than everyone else. That’s just the way it is. It sounds like the student teacher was ‘politicizing’ his response to the student when he talked about the fact that he couldn’t get married because he was gay. Should that have even been brought up in the first place? Perhaps he was carrying a grudge or was angry about it and was merely venting his frustrations. What ever the reason, if he had kept this to himself nothing probably would have happened to him. Everyone, whether straight or gay, needs to be careful what they say or do around children.

  • Would a straight teacher have to answer “that’s too controversial” if a student asked them if they were married? That seems absurd. They would just answer, just as Stembaugh did.

    In fact, we codify marital status into our language when referring to female teachers, most of whom still go by Miss or Mrs. rather than Ms. Is that something we have to be conscious of? Perhaps we should…

  • soch

    I don’t want my 4th grader to learn from her teacher what “gay/others” mean. End of story.

    Please don’t make this a gay rights issue. Think of small children and their naive minds.

  • It is absolutely a rights issue. He wasn’t explaining gay sex.

    So if we feel it is appropriate for children to know what “marriage” is at all it is absolutely appropriate to speak the same way about your own “marriage.”

    If there is a policy stating that no instructor can indicate marital status and that all female teachers must use Ms. then that would be fair.

  • margo

    That’s really all there is to it, Alley. Thanks for separating the rhetorical wheat from the chaff. Disclosing the gender of the person you love is no more or less “about sex” for gay people than it is for straight people.

  • […] were shocked to hear that earlier this month a Lewis and Clark student teacher, Seth Stambaugh was let go from the Beaverton school district for re…. There has been much discussion and outrage in the last few weeks and last Thursday the Beaverton […]