Reinstated Oregon Teacher Seth Stambaugh Talks To Towleroad

SP: You've said that getting your teaching position back is a "great first step" but that "it is only that, a first step." What are the other steps that you would see take place?

6a00d8341c730253ef0133f4cd82e3970b-250wi SS: I would like to see students thriving in Beaverton and beyond, be they queer or otherwise.  Students should know that marginalized people exist, in this instance gay people.  This is a great teaching moment where we can send the message that difference does not mean adversity.  The diversity between and among all people should be valued as inherent and beautiful.

SP: You said that when you were first dismissed that you felt as if you were being asked to go back into the closet. Have you felt less likely to reveal your sexuality to people since the controversy began?

SS: I came out of the closet when I was 16 in a very supportive family.  I was very lucky in that.  Their support, along with the support of the communities I have lived in, and that of my attorney, Lake Perriguey, have reaffirmed that queer is okay.  We do not exist in a social vacuum, and, as I said earlier, I value the diversity among and between people in terms of our differences as something that we, all as humans, can learn from.  Comfortableness about being out varies from person to person, understandably, but I have been out for a long time.  At the suggestion that I might have to become more closeted again, I feel absolute terror.  I think doing so would be a backwards step, and plan on being honest. 

SP: There's been a lot of debate from those who supported your dismissal about what a nine-year-old can and cannot comprehend. How do you feel about a fourth grader's ability to understand homosexuality?

SS: I was never given any indication that my marital status was an issue that could be so controversial.  Staff as well as other student-teachers at Sexton Mountain Elementary freely discussed their marital status and displayed pictures of their families…I did not realize that heterosexuality had to be attached to those valuable stories and photographs.

SP: Have you heard from the parent who apparently complained about your appearance and then about the controversial conversation?

SS: I have not heard from the parent in question, and would like to protect his or her confidentiality for the sake of their child.

SP: What has been the response from other parents from the school district?

SS: I have had a vast amount of support from parents in the district.  This is a learning moment for all of us, and I value it as such.

SP: Do you plan to pursue a discrimination lawsuit against the school district?

SS: In the words of Bartleby, The Scrivener, I would prefer not to. As an addition, I would also like to express my very sincerest of thanks to Portland Public Schools.  They were BEYOND accommodating and supportive during my interim internship.  I cannot express to them enough my gratitude, especially to my interim mentor teacher.  She is a fine educator, and I have learned so much from P.P.S.'s respect, dignity, support, appreciation for diversity, and guidance.  Again, thank you Portland Public Schools.

Comments

  1. Matt26 says

    Here is an example of a gay man who is in terms with himself, comes from loving caring family, wants to live his life with all kinds of people and have valuable job, teacher. This interview should be must to read for all those gay haters.
    Wonderful he got his job back. All the best to him in the future.

  2. Joseph Singer says

    I do not think that “all is well.” It’s great that he got his job back. But from what I can read from this the school has offered no apology and has not admitted that they wronged Seth by firing him for being honest with his student.

  3. chasmader says

    “SS: I have not heard from the parent in question, and would like to protect his or her confidentiality for the sake of their child.”

    You mean enabling. Sorry, bigotry needs to be exposed and not hidden.

  4. jason says

    Good interview. Congrats on getting your job back, Seth.

    Hopefully the school will come to its senses and put an apology in writing. It’s always sweeter when it’s in writing.

  5. Tim NC says

    SP: There’s been a lot of debate from those who supported your dismissal about what a nine-year-old can and cannot comprehend. How do you feel about a fourth grader’s ability to understand homosexuality?
    —————————————-

    If a fourth grader is able to understand hetero marriage, that same fourth grader would be equally able to understand same-sex relationships. The only reason it would be difficult is if the child’s parents have already instilled homophobia into their child.

  6. doodlebug says

    As I understand it, he is a student teacher. I wonder if this has any bearing on his decision to not seek damages, as I would imagine he wants to get a full time, continuing contract at some point. I guess I’m asking because I’m wondering how this would go with a veteran teacher…

  7. niles says

    While he should be allowed to be honest with the students, there is value in discretion when it comes being around youngsters. I do hope he does not feel compelled to cross the line and concentrates on teaching.

  8. Jerry says

    Way to go Seth!

    As an addition, I would also like to say, redundantly, good job taking a stand!

    Just a little grammar police poke from one teacher to another.

  9. 33mhz says

    Fuck you, Niles. There’s only value in discretion if you think there’s value in producing human misery.

    The adults in my life “protected” me from the knowledge of other gay people up until I was presumably “ready” to know, but they (and you) feel no such compulsion to protect kids from learning all the anti-gay myths and stereotypes in circulation. The damage that it has done to me and who knows how many other gay people has been incalculable.

    So I mean this from the bottom of my heart: fuck you, you fucking irresponsible monster.

  10. Reality says

    Give me a break….
    What really happened is lost in this situation. He was removed from his internship, not his job, for making a well thought out political statement. Politics, religion, and sex do not belong in an elementary classroom. That is unless they are being taught from all aspect. He could have planned a lesson regarding families and included his house would have two men.
    He is an arrogant, bitter guy who really needs help. And until he comes to an appropriate professional conduct should probably not be in a classroom.
    Has he apologized to anyone for what he did?
    Does he know why he was actually reinstated? I do.
    Maybe his attorney can teach him professional conduct. As we know, his attorney is gay. However, his door and website do not state, “Gay Attorney”. It states “Attorney”.
    Learn something from this Mr. Stambaugh.

  11. PDX Guy says

    Stand tall Seth! This area needs more teachers like you. But as you can see from comments, not everybody gets it.

    Reality (misnomer), he was asked a question and answered it. I have answered that question the same way, “No, I am not married, it is illegal for me to marry who I would choose”. That is facts, nothing political, nothing sexual. There is no setting anywhere where personal information is not shared: school, work, etc. It is a natural part of being human.

  12. Reggie says

    To bring up “discretion” as a caveat, or wish, is to trivialize this teacher’s experience. Discretion is ALWAYS a good idea in any situation, about any “secret”, about any civilized interaction with anyone. This was not a case of someone being indiscreet. If he had shown pictures of his private life. Or outed someone he had had sex with against the person’s agreement, or shown pictures of his personal parts, that would have been indiscreet.

  13. says

    @ Niles & Reality-I feel dirty after reading your comments. Your words are a perversion of justice and far more obscene than any discussion of what makes a family ever could be. It’s truly a sad day when answering a question honestly is seen as an orchestrated political statement. If only soap could wash away your type of dirty…

  14. dan m says

    I was going to say: “how can anyone read this and think ‘gay dude’ as opposed to, you know, just ‘dude?'” Turns out I’m wrong.

    To Reality, familiarize yrself with this response: “I was never given any indication that my marital status was an issue that could be so controversial. Staff as well as other student-teachers at Sexton Mountain Elementary freely discussed their marital status and displayed pictures of their families…I did not realize that heterosexuality had to be attached to those valuable stories and photographs.”

    Your point is invalid. In fact, your point is ironic… you say he should consider himself a “teacher,” not a “gay teacher.” This is precisely what he tried to do when talking about his family the way any straight teacher would.

  15. Contrarian says

    There seems to have been a sea change (blame Oprah, “Dr.” Phil,etc.)in our culture in the last 2 decades. Back in the day (and I’m ancient so I mean the 60’s and 70’s) no teacher was into sharing personal details of family life with their students at any grade level. Now it’s all touchy-feely caring and sharing and I’m talking ’bout heteros here. I never knew which of my teachers had kids or was married or divorced. The only indication was when a female teacher took a maternity leave and even then details were hush-hush. It simply was not discussed. I think the school board banned personal photos except in the faculty lounge. IMHO we should return to that standard for teachers of all sexual preferences. Why do kids need to hear about ANY teacher’s personal life?

  16. TANK says

    Nah, they were always sharing details about their little lives with their students. Well, except the gay ones. The straights were tittering about their marriages and whateverthefuck worthless little milestone in their personal lives. Contrarian’s just being a douche for the sake of it. Hey, contrarian, it’s only a respectable position if you have a sound argument. You don’t. So, old, blow yourself. There was imagined “glory day” when teachers were all asexual and never shared…c’mon. I had a geometry teacher in middle school who was an alcoholic and would show up for classes drunk as a skunk. If that’s not “sharing,” I don’t know what is.

  17. Reality says

    Contrarian is correct.
    One day, the world will be perfect for everyone. Right now, it is what it is and a teacher needs to put the best interest of the child over the best interest of themselves.
    And, if I am thinking straight…. or gay… in some states homosexual couples can get married or form a legal civil union. Maybe he should consider moving there or help make the change happen in Oregon.