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Portland Teacher Of The Year Finds Redemption After Fighting A Landmark LGBTQ Case Against His School District
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People, Social Issues2 years ago

Portland Teacher Of The Year Finds Redemption After Fighting A Landmark LGBTQ Case Against His School District

Throughout history, whenever things have gone wrong and there has been injustice, people have fought to make things right. There are many incarnations of civil rights movements, each with its own mission to bring justice, equality, and peace among people.

And as it was in history, people still continue to fight for all that is right to this day. Brett Bigham, an American special education teacher, Oregon State Teacher of the Year, and a gay rights activist, among many other wonderful things, recently went to Twitter with a short recap of his fight and victory against a rotten school district.

Bored Panda got in contact with Brett Bigham for an interview on the matter.

Brett Bigham went to twitter to recap how he fought a morally rotten school district after becoming Oregon’s Teacher of the Year

Image credits: Brett Bigham 2014 Oregon Teacher of the Year

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

For the longest time, Bigham was discriminated against, controlled and silenced using threats of various caliber by his school

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

After expressing his sincere support for LGBT youth in his speech at the White House Honoring Ceremony, the school started trying to destroy him

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

“The supervisor who started all of this was the rotten apple. But, just like apples, the rot spread quickly and the district tried to cover it up. Sadly, their idea of “covering it up,” in their minds, was to try and destroy me,” explained Bigham.

“I try to only speak of my own experience, but over the past couple of days I have received tens of thousands of comments and messages. These have flooded in from links on Imgur, where three different versions of my tweets sat on their front page for a day, but also Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, chat groups about Star Trek, the Transgender community has been on fire, the messages are coming from everywhere. Most are of encouragement, but many have been teachers and workers sharing how they have been harassed and bullied. My case is extreme. I know that. It is why my case ended up in the Amicus Brief from Southern Poverty Law Center. But, I think what the real lesson here is: if this could happen to a Teacher of the Year, in Portland, Oregon (not the other one), the most liberal voting city in the United States, just imagine what is happening to LGBT teachers in the conservative areas.”

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

The school fought Bigham in any way they could, but he did not back down and defended his medically fragile students and himself

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

It seemed like everyone has turned against him as even the investigator was impartial to the issue

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Brett Bigham is a special education teacher who was awarded the title of Teacher of the Year back in 2014. The school he used to work for put great pressure on him when making appearances regarding the nomination—so much, in fact, that it was literally controlling him, demanding that he bring in his private mail from home and keep his mouth shut on anything that was not approved by the school to talk about.

Since Bigham is gay and a gay rights activist, he was also threatened not to express his support for the LGBT community and was downright bullied for this. Until one day when he couldn’t stay silent about it and went against these school orders at the White House Honoring Ceremony.

Bigham then filed a state and federal claim against the district and the tide started to turn

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

After a number of glorious victories, Bigham only wanted one more thing—an appology

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Despite immense pressure from nearly everyone in Bigham’s immediate surroundings, he stood his ground fiercely and pulled through. Given this, we’ve asked Bigham what kept him going. He had this to say: “The suicide rates of LGBT youth. When I was 15, my best friend came out to me. I hugged him. Told him I loved him. He drove home and put a shotgun in his mouth. My friend died because he thought that was a better path than being gay. He couldn’t see a future as a gay man because he never saw an out gay man.”

He continued: “When I accepted the nomination for Teacher of the Year, I had a discussion with my husband that it would mean some hate mail. We also discussed riding in the Portland Pride Parade together. My husband is incredibly shy, so he carefully chose the events he would attend. When he knew having a husband on my arm would be seen by LGBT youth, he was right there waving and smiling. But those were the only things he agreed to.”

“Gay marriage became legal during my year of service and pretty much every media outlet in Oregon showed up at what was supposed to be our private wedding. I was watching Mike’s face when the person in charge told us, ‘The film crews won’t leave. You have to either get married in front of them or go somewhere else.’ Mike looked at me in terror and I said, ‘It’s up to you.’ ‘I’ve waited a long time to marry you. Let’s do it.’ And so, even though I was under orders from my district I would be fired if I said any words publicly they had not approved, I did my marriage vows on live television. Mike, the shyest person I know, spoke louder than I did. So, that all said, we knew there are LGBT kids out there thinking about suicide because they don’t see a future. I was a gay kid once. Mike was a gay kid once. We never saw anything like us when we were younger. We needed to see them, but we couldn’t. I believe those wedding vows on live TV saved some lives. Mike did that.”

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

He requested an apology to be given to him, to his students, and to the taxpaying community

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

“I know my case is extreme. But the media did a very big disservice to me in all of this,” explained Bigham the challenges of his struggle. “My BOLI complaint was a public document, so I knew it would hit the media eventually. I very carefully kept emails and documents, all of the written orders and I had made sure I had the uniserve, Alan Moore, at most of my meetings.”

“When the news started to bubble out, the district quickly fired me and then began lying, in earnest, to the press. Just a look through the Wikipedia page about it , the articles linked, shows how the media published everything the district said as if it were gospel. They did this without asking me to address their claims. The district told the media I had missed 45 days of school as Teacher of the Year and that they had told me stop missing school and I refused. Those were all lies and I could prove it, but the media merely mentioned I contested the claims.”

The only thing I had refused, originally, is their mediation offer included that I had to take back my union, state and federal complaints for them to talk. I refused to take them back, but agreed to mediation. The union sat in the meeting with me, but the media continued to tell the district’s story until it got so extreme, even the media turned on them.”

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

During these tense moments, Bigham directed his anger and frustration towards co-creating a list of books for teaching equity

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

What followed was a long battle between the school district and Bigham, eventually ending in legal action against the district, after which a number of its officials were removed from their posts. He did this to protect himself and, above all, the special needs students he was teaching and looking after. After a long wait, and much to Bigham’s surprise, the school district also issued a long-awaited apology, ending the otherwise horrible experience on a victorious positive note.

After he shared his experience in a Twitter thread, it went viral with a bunch of people thanking him and calling him a hero for his bravery and standing up for his students. The tweet is currently counting over 228,000 likes with around 71,500 retweets.

Eventually, there was an apology issued, which Bigham described as hell freezing over, putting a happy ending to an otherwise horrible experience

Image credits: 2014ORTOY

Lastly, we’ve asked Bigham what is some advice he could give to those going through similar situations. He said this: “I’ve been asked this before and my answers change. In my case, I was in the most liberal voting city in the country and it happened to me. Any LGBT teacher or employee, in any job, recognizes the importance of the Supreme Court ruling. The fact I’m a part of that ruling, in my own little way, means a lot to me. But it doesn’t mean we’re safe.”

“The civil rights amendment was decades ago. Those black boys dead on the street with bullet holes in their back are not going to tell you the Constitution is working for everyone. But, on paper, for the first time, we have equality. Now, we have to go make it happen. That happens by us being smart, keeping records, fighting back, looking for Civil Rights groups like ECRA Education Civil Rights Alliance to work with. (Disclaimer, I am one of their Leading Educators Ambassadors for Equity).”

“I used to tell people ‘come out of the closet when you know you are safe’. I can’t give that same advice any more. Of course, you must do what honors your own life. But I fought back. There are kids who were going to kill themselves and saw a Champion fighting for them.”

What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Becca Gizmo the Squirrel
Community Member
2 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

What an unbelievable school. Good for this guy for sticking up for the students, himself and all those without a voice. Schools should not be a place for prejudice, hate and teachers that teach kids how to discriminate. I hope my kids have teachers like this guy!!!

Loki’s Lil Butter Knife
Community Member
2 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I am confounded by the level of hatred, bigotry, and homophobia displayed by this school district. Anyone working at that school who tolerated these blatant displays of homophobia should be fired. I am so sorry that this teacher had to go through all of this just to be treated with decency. I do admire his resilience and standing up for himself and his students. You can tell by just reading his tweets, how much he valued the students that he taught. Any parent should be happy to have a teacher like this educate their kids.

Zophra
Community Member
2 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Don't take it personally, Aunt Messy is very poor with reading interpretation and analytical reasoning .

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Robert McDaniel Jr
Community Member
2 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This type of harassment continues everywhere... supervisors have lied, stolen documents and in generally harassed me before and without an active union to protect us there is nothing I can do. I was voted teacher of the year and then my contact was terminated the same year as a form of harassment. The difference here is it was my fellow teachers who voted me teacher of the year, it was the administration that terminated my contract. It happens everywhere and in many cases there is nothing we (as teachers) can do to stop it.

earringnut
Community Member
2 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Unions are important. The right to be a part of one is equally important.

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Becca Gizmo the Squirrel
Community Member
2 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

What an unbelievable school. Good for this guy for sticking up for the students, himself and all those without a voice. Schools should not be a place for prejudice, hate and teachers that teach kids how to discriminate. I hope my kids have teachers like this guy!!!

Loki’s Lil Butter Knife
Community Member
2 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I am confounded by the level of hatred, bigotry, and homophobia displayed by this school district. Anyone working at that school who tolerated these blatant displays of homophobia should be fired. I am so sorry that this teacher had to go through all of this just to be treated with decency. I do admire his resilience and standing up for himself and his students. You can tell by just reading his tweets, how much he valued the students that he taught. Any parent should be happy to have a teacher like this educate their kids.

Zophra
Community Member
2 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Don't take it personally, Aunt Messy is very poor with reading interpretation and analytical reasoning .

Load More Replies...
Robert McDaniel Jr
Community Member
2 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This type of harassment continues everywhere... supervisors have lied, stolen documents and in generally harassed me before and without an active union to protect us there is nothing I can do. I was voted teacher of the year and then my contact was terminated the same year as a form of harassment. The difference here is it was my fellow teachers who voted me teacher of the year, it was the administration that terminated my contract. It happens everywhere and in many cases there is nothing we (as teachers) can do to stop it.

earringnut
Community Member
2 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Unions are important. The right to be a part of one is equally important.

Load More Replies...
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