A Washington social studies teacher who was fired 42 years ago for being gay received a long-awaited public apology from the Tacoma School District.
Jim Gaylord, 76, was once a teacher at Wilson High School. The 35-year-old bachelor was well-liked by students and teachers.
One day a student confided in him that he was attracted to other boys. Gaylord never confirmed his own sexual orientation, but the student presumed he was gay.
Later the student attempted suicide. When questioned by police, he said he had spoken with Gaylord.
The school’s then-vice principal John Beer drove to Gaylord’s home and asked him point-blank if he was a homosexual. Gaylord said yes. He later received a termination letter that said being a “publicly known homosexual” was “incompatible” with being a teacher, The Associated Press reported.
Gaylord challenged the decision and the case went all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court.
“I was rather forced into it, but I had to do it because I had always emphasized to my students the importance of civil liberties and pursuing them and I could hardly not do what I had always told them they should do,” he told KIRO TV.
“I don’t believe a homosexual meets the standards, the professional standards, the community standards, that we would expect of a classroom teacher,” Beer said in his testimony.
Tarnished with the image of a sex criminal, Gaylord lost his case.
The Tacoma school district issued a public apology to Gaylord this week, after being approached by the executive director of a local LGBT youth organization, Oasis.
“I offer a sincere apology to Mr. Jim Gaylord. Jim, thank you for continuing to teach us,” Kurt Miller, the Tacoma School Board president, said Sunday at a fundraiser for Oasis.
The school board recently added sexual orientation to the protected classes of its non-discrimination policy.
Image screenshot: USA Today, KING-TV