TACOMA – The Tacoma school district apologized to a former teacher tonight, 40 years after they fired him for being gay. Jim Gaylord didn’t think he would ever get a standing ovation inside a Tacoma school. Not after he was fired by the district in 1972, and he lost a lawsuit to get his job back a few years later.
“It’s a kind of a closure,” he said about the reception he got. “I got over it years ago, but this does complete the process.”
Gaylord taught at Wilson High School for more than a decade. By all accounts, he was liked by his students, and had positive evaluations. But when he admitted that he was gay, he was fired on the grounds that he was ‘immoral.’
“The 1972 decision was written within the guidelines at time, but it does not reflect the values and morals of the district now,” said Tacoma school board president Kurt Miller. “I offer a sincere apology. Jim Gaylord, thank you for continuing to teach us.”
The apology came during an event celebrating Oasis, a support and resource center for LGBTQ youth in Tacoma.
“That made it special,” said Gaylord. “I volunteer for them and donate money, for it means a lot.”
Gaylord says it was an appropriate occasion, to not only look back at his fight for equal rights and respect. He also wanted everyone to look forward.
“I wanted to speak to the youth,” he said on stage tonight. “Many of us have made history here in Tacoma. We need you to carry forward the work.”
Gaylord said many times over the years, people have asked him why he stayed in Tacoma after being fired. He said he didn’t want to live in exile. He’s glad now people know you don’t have to leave Tacoma to be who you are.