October 26, 2010
>Allies in Action: Gay Student Teacher Returns to the Classroom
>By GLSEN Public Policy intern, Kathryn B.
Last week, students across the country marked GLSEN’s Ally Week, an opportunity to celebrate people who do not identify as LGBT students who work to make schools safe places for everyone. In the suburbs of Portland, Ore., 22 parents showed what it means to be an ally when they took action to reinstate a gay student teacher who had been removed from his position.
Seth Stambaugh, a 23-year-old student teacher, was dismissed from his position at Sexton Mountain Elementary School for making “inappropriate remarks” in the classroom. Responding to a student’s question about if he was married, Stambaugh replied that he was not because he would want to marry a man, which is illegal in Oregon. The student asked if that meant he liked to hang out with other guys and Stambaugh said yes. The students then went on with their lesson. A parent heard about the conversation and complained to the school, which promptly dismissed Stambaugh.
In response, 22 parents wrote a letter to the district to ask that the student teacher be reinstated, citing Stambaugh’s “positive rapport” with the students.
The dean of Stambaugh’s graduate school Lewis and Clark also issued a statement of support, saying “I believe the best way to end discrimination is to ensure that all elementary and secondary children—GLBT and straight—have access to GLBT teachers in their schools.”
According to GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey, having supportive staff members – whether LGBT or straight allies – in school positively impacts LGBT students’ attendance, feelings of safety, academic achievement, goals for higher education and sense of school belonging.
The actions of these parents and Lewis and Clark produced a positive change: Stambaugh will return to the classroom this week. “I’m stoked,” he said. “Really, really excited. Those kids are my joy.”
This case demonstrates that being an ally is not a passive activity; it means standing up for the safety and support of all people with words and actions. This year’s Ally Week may have passed, but the commitment to equality is lifelong.