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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beaverton Superintendent: Dismissal of Gay Student Teacher Shows "System Flaws."

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 11:55 AM

The superintendent of Beaverton School District has finally weighed in on the decision to dismiss student teacher Seth Stambaugh after he mentioned gay marriage in a classroom.

On Friday, 27 Sexton Mountain Elementary teachers signed onto a moving letter about the incident, writing that though they did not all agree about whether Stambaugh's comment was appropriate, "We stand together against discrimination and ask our leadership to hold itself to a higher standard of practice."

Beaverton School District Superintendent Jerry Colonna then sent out this all-staff email:

Dear Beaverton School District Staff:
As many of you know, a student teacher at Sexton Mt. Elementary School had a change in placement due to concerns over a conversation he had with a fourth grade student. I acknowledge and want to apologize for the hurt and disappointment this incident has caused our staff, students and community. This issue has brought to light system flaws that we are working to correct this year and beyond. This is indeed a teachable moment for the District.

As superintendent, I am ultimately responsible for ensuring that our school system is free from discrimination and that students, staff and community members are respected and feel safe in our schools. It will take time for the community to heal, and move forward, but we are committed to earning back the trust of all we serve. Only our actions and results over time will prove whether or not we have been successful.

That's some good apologizing, but it would ring more sincere if the school district asked Stambaugh to return to the classroom. The rest of the email, including a promise that Beaverton admins will meet with Basic Rights Oregon and develop clear policies for student teachers, is below the cut.


The District's Five Year Strategic Plan is explicit about our values including diversity- it is an essential asset of our community and a source of learning and opportunity in our schools. We honor the rich diversity that makes the Beaverton community a special place to live, work and raise children. We respect and value the worth and contributions of all staff. In particular, we want our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning staff, students and community members to know that they are welcome, respected and safe in our schools. Our ultimate goal is to create successful and inclusive learning environments for all.

Here are some of the actions we are taking:

• During October and November, meet with and listen to staff and other stakeholder groups.
• Meet with area universities and colleges to develop clear policies, practices and protocols for student teachers.
• Review and update all relevant District policies and administrative regulations. Meet with Lewis & Clark University leadership to review the incident and plan for the future.
• Provide training for administrators in handling sensitive issues and topics, beginning with the Superintendent's Council and Level Administrators.
• BSD senior leadership team will meet monthly with Basic Rights Oregon.

These are just the first of many steps the District will take to improve our policies, practices and the development of a long term plan.

Although I cannot change what happened, I can make this incident an opportunity for the District to become a more accepting, caring and respectful organization.

Thank you for your support and understanding.

Sincerely,
Jerry Colonna

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