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Discrimination charges require a lot more proof

Oh joy. Gresham is being portrayed again in the national news as a place that discriminates against gays.

A month ago, it was due to a local bakery’s ill-advised decision not to sell a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. Now, it’s a Gresham-Barlow School District principal’s allegation that the district is refusing to renew his contract because of his sexual orientation.

The first case was cut and dried: No one disputes that the business refused to fulfill an order for the same-sex couple. In our view, that was wrong.

The second matter, however, is not nearly so clear.

North Gresham Elementary School Principal Tom Klansnic appears to be quite popular with parents and students. The Outlook recently published an article about the good work he has done at his school to prevent bullying.

We applaud his accomplishments in his years with the school district, but frankly, the accusations he has made against district administrators do not strike us as plausible.

We say this because we know the people who run this school district in particular and school districts in general. Gresham-Barlow’s top administrators and school board members are not unenlightened people who would clumsily and ignorantly discharge a person based upon sexual orientation. Rather, they are professionals with high levels of education, deep involvement in the community and a well-developed sense of fairness.

Consider that the same group of people who supposedly are firing a principal for being gay also are about to ask the community for an eye-popping tax increase to fund a $210 million bond measure. Obviously, this is not a district led by far-right firebrands. If anything, the majority of district administrators and board members are more likely to be labeled as soft-hearted, left-leaning do-gooders.

We aren’t completely dismissing the possibility that subtle discrimination can enter into hiring and firing decisions at a school district. We will wait for Klansnic’s attorney to file a threatened lawsuit, and we’ll be interested to see any hard evidence that discrimination was a factor.

The Outlook, at least for the past 30 years, has consistently opposed discrimination against anyone based on their color, country of origin, sexual orientation, gender or any other factor that would cause them to be treated unfairly. So we do not take this allegation against the district lightly.

But our best assessment at this point is that there are probably other reasons the district and Klansnic are parting ways. Perhaps the explanation boils down to differences in educational philosophy, or a principal’s resistance to ever-changing standards imposed by state and district bureaucrats.

If the latter were the case, we might even agree with a departing principal on that score. But we’d need to see a great deal more proof before we could conclude that the Gresham-Barlow School District would consciously choose to violate state law, its own policies and the stated values of its leaders by dismissing a principal simply because he is gay.

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