Oregon’s 2014 Teacher of the Year is accusing the local school district of firing him because he’s gay.
Brett Brigham, a special education teacher for the Multnomah Education Service District, was terminated Friday after being placed on administrative leave, Fox12 Oregon reported.
Brigham told Fox12 that the trouble started when he started speaking publicly about being gay.
“I can be the gay teacher that came out and said he was gay in public, and was told by the district not to speak and was crushed; or I can be the teacher who came out and fought back for my First Amendment rights,” Brigham said. “The gay part about this is very small.”
Brigham filed a discrimination complaint with his union and the Bureau of Labor and Industries.
The school district said that Brigham was fired for missing too much class time, and not returning to the classroom in the fall of 2014. The district hired an investigator to search for evidence of discrimination, but the investigator’s report found none, Fox12 reported.
“That was a smear campaign against me,” Brigham said. “It’s so full of lies, it’s not funny.”
The district’s interim superintendent, Jim Rose, called Brigham’s termination “a difficult decision and not what we hoped for” in a statement issued Friday, according to Fox12.
“Brett is a great teacher,” Rose said, “Unfortunately, it became clear over time that Brett’s focus was no longer his classroom and students, as evidenced by excessive time away and distraction during class time. Brett was no longer giving his students his best efforts.”
District officials told Fox12 they gave Brigham more than two months of paid leave to speak at Teacher of the Year events with the expectation he would return to the classroom in the fall of 2014. He declined mediation with the school to remedy the situation, they said.
Brigham said he plans to continue fighting to get his job back.