Betsy Crumbliss
Case 10

James M. Gaylord, Appellant v. Tacoma School District No. 10, et al, Respondents

Supreme Court of Washington

January 20, 1977


Background

James Gaylord, a teacher at Wilson High School in Tacoma, received great ratings from supervisors numerous times. After he confessed his sexual orientation to both a student and the vice principal, his job was in jeopardy. He was charged on grounds of immortality. Gaylord filed action against the district in a trial court. However, the court ruled that his admission of his sexual orientation “connoted immoral acts” and asserted that the district acted appropriately in the discharge. After an appellate court remanded the case following an appeal, the Supreme Court of Washington agreed to hear the case.


Decision

After the Supreme Court reviewed the terms on which the teacher was fired, they decided that being homosexual was in fact not immoral. The Supreme Court concurred with Gaylord that he could not be discriminated against because of sexual preference. The reason Gaylord was dismissed was not because of his sexual preference, it was because he shared his views with a student and the vice principal. Because there were complaints from parents about Gaylord’s sexual preference, the Supreme Court decided to rule in favor of the Tacoma School District, leaving Gaylord without a job.



Impact on Education

I do not think sexual preference should impact teaching in any way, shape, or form. However, in Gaylord’s case, it did. Because he shared his preference with not only the vice principal, but also a student, he job was at stake. Teachers are not in the role of a friend when they are at school. Teachers are at school to educate the best they can and I believe that sexual preference has nothing to do with the way one should teach.



Applicable Quiz Question

True or False: Gaylord was not fired because he was homosexual. Gaylord was fired because he shared his views with a student and the vice principal.




Matthew Hotard

JAMES M. GAYLORD, APPELLANT,
v.
TACOMA SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 10, ET AL, RESPONDENTS
En Banc. Horowitz, J. Wright, C.j., Hamilton, Stafford, and Brachtenbach, JJ., and Kale, J. Pro Tem., concur. Dolliver, J., dissenting. Utter, J., concurring in the dissent. Dolliver, J., concurs with Utter, J.
January 20, 1977

Background:

James Gaylord taught high school in the Tacoma school district for 12 years when a former student made a written statement to the school stating that he thought Mr. Gaylord was a homosexual. When confronted with the statement Mr. Gaylord admitted to being gay. Mr. Gaylord was notified he was being let go for immorality. The trial judge found that being an admitted homosexual connotes illegal as well as immoral acts. In 1972 the act of sex in any other position other than the missionary position between a man and a woman was literally illegal as well as being considered immoral according to most church doctrines. Also after his sexual orientation became known it affected his ability to teach.



Decision:

The trial judge ruled the termination was legal and justified. The Supreme Court very explicitly spelled out what homosexuality was and what was characterized as immoral. Mr. Gaylord kept the fact that he was gay from his parents for over 20 years proving the fact he knew it was both illegal and immoral. The court found that a “Teachers efficiency is determined by his relationship with students, their parents, fellow teachers and school administrators.” His admittance damages the relationship between him and all of the mentioned people, affectively reducing his ability to effectively teach. The court finds that the termination was legal.


Impact:

In this day and age being a homosexual teacher may not ruffle anybody’s feathers as long as they are not pushing the lifestyle on the kids. The big thing here is the ability to effectively teach. What constitutes immoral acts well the community in which you live defines these acts. A teacher is held to a higher standard than any other public employee because the students parents demand it. This case shows that if it can affect your teaching effectiveness then you can be let go.


Question:

In 1972 this sexual act was considered illegal and immoral?

  1. Missionary position
  2. Bouncing on a trampoline.
  3. Sodomy
  4. kissing