Gresham

Supporters rally as clock ticks for openly gay principal

Supporters rally as clock ticks for openly gay principal »Play Video
Principal Tom Klansnic.

GRESHAM, Ore. - Support is growing for an openly gay school principal who will soon be out of a job.

Tom Klansnic has less than two months left on the job at North Gresham Elementary. The Gresham-Barlow School District is not renewing his contract and some folks believe it has to do with the fact that after his divorce, Klansnic revealed that he was gay.

"His relationship with the district changed almost immediately," Klansnic's attorney, Judy Snyder, said. She believes the district is discriminating against her client because of his sexual orientation.

The school board denies the claim and issued the following statement:

"The Gresham-Barlow School district has a Nondiscrimination Policy. We follow that policy and we are committed to providing a work environment free of discrimination."

"Any accusations that the district has discriminated against an employee due to their sexual orientation are false."

"The district is unable to share with the community why Mr. Klansnic's contract was non-extended due to state law. Oregon law deems an employee's personnel file to be confidential. Because of this, the district is unable to share information from Mr. Klansnic's personnel file with the community."

We tried to speak to some of the school board members just before a work session Thursday night but they shook their heads 'no' and would not say anything.

And Klansnic isn't speaking either. His attorney told him not to talk much to the media because they are planning on filing a lawsuit against the school district this summer.

Klansnic did say, however, that the comments on a petition, which has been signed by around 1,000 people both locally and from across the country, brought tears to his eyes. Supporters brought the petition to Thursday night's school board meeting.

One former student remembered Klansnic from 1987 when he was with the Parkrose School District. "My father passed away the summer prior to being in his class and he was very kind and helped me with one of the most difficult parts of my life," the student wrote.

A parent wrote that Klansnic "made a huge difference for the better in our very tumultuous life after dealing with a violent husband and father."

Brenda Cook, who worked for Klansnic 16 years ago and remains his friend, organized a small rally Thursday night. She spoke before the school board and read some of the comments from the petition but didn't get much feedback from board members, who simply moved on to the next item on the agenda.

Klansnic's supporters have started a Facebook page called Keep Mr. Klansnic at North Gresham in their ongoing effort to save his job.