News » Workplace

Ore. Principal Says He Was Forced Out of Job Because He is Gay

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Friday Apr 26, 2013

An elementary school principal from Oregon believes he was forced out of his job because he is openly gay, the Oregonian reports.

Tom Klansnic, principal of North Gresham Elementary School in Gresham, Ore., (just east of Portland) says officials from the Gresham-Barlow School District did not renew his contract last year because they Klansnic came out as gay after his divorce with his wife.

Klansnic was apparently open about his homosexuality and informed teachers and parents that he is gay. On Thursday, members of school the board reconfirmed that they will not renew his contract, even though there was no public discussion.

District Communications Director Athena Vadnais said Gresham-Barlow officials do not talk about employees' personal lives and by law, their personnel records are private. She added that Oregon school boards can terminate an administrator for any cause the school board deems in good faith sufficient." Vadnais said the district is committed to creating a discrimination-free work environment and that the its anti-discrimination policy protects gay workers.

Though Klansnic, who has been principal at the 550-student school for a decade, would not go into details about the incident, he did say he wanted to keep his job.

I love my job. I love working with kids," he said.

Capri Parker, president of the school's parent-teacher group, raved about Klansnic, calling him "fabulous" and said "everything he has done has made our school better." She added parents only learned that Klansnic would no longer be principal just a few weeks ago and that no one has explained why he was being let go.

She said she has no clue as to why the district's officials would do this to Klansnic. Since Parker is heavily involved with the school, she claims that she knows the school's performance record, which does not indicated there were problems with Klansnic's performance.

"He is a fabulous principal. My kids have loved him," she told the newspaper. "I have seen everything he has done and built at this school." Parker added the district's decision to give him the axe "is very unsettling. Everyone is upset. The staff is not happy about it at all. The parents that do know about it are not happy at all."

Judy Snyder, Klansnic's lawyer, said his supervisors never told him they had a problem with him being gay. Snyder did say, however, the timing of the incident seemed to be too coincidental.

"You have a principal who is highly successful who is in the middle of his third three- year contract," she said. "Then he comes out of the closet and he is divorcing, and suddenly his work becomes deficient and he is being micromanaged." Snyder added that Klansnic wants to finish out the year positively for students, and did not seek for media coverage.

Snyder has filed a claim with the district to notify that Klansnic is considering a discrimination suit.

A similar incident occurred earlier this week when Carla Hale, a Catholic high school teacher from Ohio, was fired after an anonymous person sent her employer a copy of her mother's obituary, which mentions the teacher has a same-sex partner. Hale had been a teacher at Watterson High School for 19 years, but was shocked to learn she was being let go over her sexual orientation.

Additionally, Deborah Leply, an openly gay assistant principal at Sunlake High School In Land O' Lakes, Fla., filed a complaint against Principal Garry Walthall for allegedly using an anti-gay slur against her. Leply says he used the epithet in regards to her job performance, the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune, reports.

According to Leply's attorney, James Lowy, Walthall came to a meeting where Leply was present and said, "I'm a homophobe. I can't help it." On another incident, the principal allegedly told two faculty members, "Dr. Lepley was probably a crack baby. That would explain a lot."

Leply, 61, has been in a relationship with her partner for 23 years, according a letter she wrote to the Pasco County school district. She has worked for the district for 26 years.

Officials from the school district are currently investigating Leply's allegations, a spokeswoman told the Tribune.

Lowly said that the remarks allegedly made by Walthall are, "obviously unlawful pretext meant to further demean her, single her out due to her age, gender and marital status, and prepare to potentially fire her from her position at Sunlake High School."

"My client shows up for work every day and does her job," Lowy to the school district. "Her communications skills are not lacking. The problem this year is that she works for a verbally abusive homophobe who is predictably receiving low marks in community surveys."

He added Leply wants work with the district four more years so she can finish her career there, Lowry wrote.


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook