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Student Teacher’s Comment on Gay Marriage Leads to Termination

From Portland, Oregon comes a news story in which a conversation between a student teacher and a fourth grader in his class at Sexton Mountain elementary school, lead to the teacher’s dismissal. The school, in Beaverton School District, says that they do not have any anti gay discrimination occurring in the school.

student%20%26%20teacher.jpgThe incident surrounds student teacher Seth Stambaugh. In a conversation with a fourth grade student, the student teacher was asked about his marital status by the child to which he allegedly replied that it would be illegal for him to get married because if he would, he would choose to marry a man. The student also asked if the student teacher hung out with guys, to which he answered yes. This is an accurate account according to Stambaugh’s attorney.

The student teacher is in the Master of Education program being taught through Lewis and Clark College. He has been student teaching as part of his practicum to getting his degree since the beginning of the school year. Two complaints were filed against the student teacher after the incident occurred.

In a complaint, a father of a student allegedly complained he did not believe the student teacher was dressing appropriately. The teacher was wearing pressed slacks, an oxford style shirt and a cardigan that belonged to his grandfather. That complaint was dismissed by the school itself.

On September 15th, the school district contacted Lewis and Clark to alert them that the student teacher would not be able to return to the school. The student teacher was told nothing more than that his comments were inappropriate. There is no dispute in regards to the facts in the case, but rather if this is an acceptable dismissal.

According to the school district’s spokesperson, Maureen Wheeler, the school district honors diversity and that includes sexual orientation. Although she would not speak about the case in particular, she noted that it was a fourth grader who was 9 years old that the incident revolved around. She also said that this student teacher was just one of some 250 to 350 student teachers who come into the district each year to fulfill this educational requirement.

According to Lewis and Clark, administrators did not follow the usual academic protocols in this case. Problems and “bad fits” between student teachers and districts are common, according to Lewis and Clark. Usually before a move is made, the student teacher, district and college officials discuss what occurred but that did not happen in this case. In this case, the only conversation occurred on Sept 13th, in the evening, with the principal from Sexton Mountain, followed by a series of emails and voicemails the next day. On the 15th, a voicemail stated that the student teacher was no longer allowed back.

According to Stambaugh’s attorney, the sudden change placed the student teacher in jeopardy in regards to his education and career. The student teacher was moved to another school district to complete his practicum.