The winner of Oregon’s 2014 Teacher of the Year Award may have a fancy certificate signed by the governor, but one thing he doesn’t have is a teaching job.
That’s because special education teacher Brett Brigham was officially fired Friday after being placed on administrative leave, and he claims it all stems back to when he won the award and began talking openly about being gay.
According to Brigham, he was told by the district to stop speaking publicly, was moved to another part of his school’s building, and was threatened or blackmailed with being fired over 30 times.
He’s filed a complaint with the union and the Bureau of Labor and Industries.
“So basically it comes down to two choices,” Bigham told local Portland news station KPTV. “I can be the gay teacher who came out, who was told by his district not to speak and was crushed, or I could be the teacher who came out and was told by his district not to say he was gay and fought back for my First Amendment rights and the honest truth is, the gay part of this is very small.”
The district completed its own report of Brigham’s termination, finding no evidence of discrimination and pointing instead to Brigham missing too much class time.
He was given two months of paid leave to speak as Teacher of the Year, and the district claims he exceeded that time and declined mediation when they tried to find a solution.
“That was a smear campaign against me. It’s so full of lies, it’s not funny,” Brigham says of the report.
Interim Superintendant Jim Rose says, “It was a difficult decision and not what we hoped for. Brett is a great teacher. Unfortunately, it became clear over time that Brett’s focus was no longer his classroom and students.”