Gay student teacher gets his job back

Gay student teacher gets his job back »Play Video
Seth Stambaugh speaks at the Q Center Friday and said he's "stoked" about being able to student teach again.

PORTLAND, Ore. - One quick conversation about his sexual orientation got Seth Stambaugh kicked out of the classroom, but now he gets to go back.

Stambaugh held a news conference at the Q Center Friday afternoon. He spoke about nearly losing his dream simply for answering a student’s question.

He said he’s always wanted to teach but didn’t expect the lessons he’d learn to be quite so controversial.

The 23-year-old was removed from his classroom at Sexton Mountain Elementary School in Beaverton for telling a fourth grader he was gay.

“The student asked me if I was married. I indicated that I was not,” Stambaugh said. “He asked me if it was because I wasn’t old enough. I told him, no, that it would be because I would choose to marry another man. And he asked if I liked to hang out with other guys, and I said, ‘Yep.’”

A parent later complained that was “inappropriate.” Beaverton quietly banned Stambaugh from the district even though it was his first week of student teaching.

“I felt like I was being asked to go back into the closet and that’s a terrifying place to be,” he said. “My first reaction was absolute terror.”

“What do you tell people what to talk about and not talked about? It’s not quite that simple,” said Emily de la Cruz, a professor of education at Portland State University.

She says professionalism in the classroom is not something that is normally lectured about.

“The tricky thing is there is not one set of standards for what’s professional and what isn’t,” de la Cruz said. “You provide opportunities for them to have experiences in which they can practice these things.”

But what is undebatable is the law.

“They know what their legal responsibilities are and along with responsibility comes rights,” de la Cruz said.

“All parents have a valid right to voice any question or concern that they may have regarding their child’s public school education, but public schools have a responsibility to ensure they are not favoring an educational model that discriminates against queer people or any other minority,” said Stambaugh.

Beaverton’s superintendent sent an e-mail to all staff apologizing, saying Stambaugh’s dismissal, “shows system flaws.”

Stambaugh said he never got an apology and said he wants one. But he said he’ll be back in class Thursday.

“I’m stoked,” he said. “Really, really excited. Those kids are my joy.”

Stambaugh said he doesn’t plan to sue, saying he doesn’t have time to and wants to concentrate on finishing school.

As for how he plans to explain his absence with his students, he said he’ll have to discuss that with his lead teacher.