Student Teacher Fired for Saying He's Gay Gets Job Back

Seth Stambaugh told a fourth grader he wasn't married because he is gay.

Oct. 24, 2010— -- An Oregon student-teacher who said he was removed from a suburban Portland school because he told a fourth grader he was gay was given his job back and could be back in the classroom this week.

Seth Stambaugh, 23, was banned from the Beaverton School District in September after he responded candidly to a question from a student at the Sexton Mountain Elementary School.

"The student asked me if I was married. I indicated that I was not," Stambaugh said at a news conference on Friday.

"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," he said. "And he asked if I liked to hang out with other guys, and I said, 'Yep.'"

A parent overheard the exchange and later complained to school administrators that Stambaugh's response was "inappropriate," ABC Portland affiliate KATU-TV reported.

On Thursday, six weeks after Stambaugh was banned from Beaverton, the district, and Lewis and Clark Graduate School of Education, where he is a student, put out a joint press release saying they had agreed he could return to his original student teaching placement.

"We are moving forward with our common values and principles of equity, respect and inclusion," the press release stated.

According to KATU, Beaverton schools superintendent Jerry Colonna sent an e-mail to all staff apologizing and saying that Stambaugh's dismissal "shows system flaws."

Colonna told The Oregonian newspaper that there has been a lot of "hurt and pain that has come forward as a result of this by our gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual staff and students and community members and many, many others who see schools as a place of tolerance and social justice."

At a news conference Friday, Stambaugh said the district's action made him feel "like I was being asked to go back into the closet and that's a terrifying place to be."

"My first reaction was absolute terror," he said.

Education experts say the case raises questions about how far teachers can go in discussing their personal lives with their students.

"What do you tell people what to talk about and not talk about? It's not quite that simple," said Emily de la Cruz, a professor of education at Portland State University told ABC affiliate KATU-TV in Portland.

"The tricky thing is there is not one set of standards for what's professional and what isn't," she said. "You provide opportunities for them to have experiences in which they can practice these things."

Stambaugh said he still wants an apology from the district, but he has no plans to sue the district. He's just thrilled to be going back to the classroom.

"I'm stoked," he said. "Really, really excited. Those kids are my joy."