Washington Law Review


James H. Lowe


The facts culminating in James Gaylord's dismissal were undisputed. Gaylord had been a highly regarded public high school teacher for nearly twelve years when a student sought his counsel on several topics, including homosexuality. During their conversation the student formed the belief, not predicated upon any admission by Gaylord, that the teacher was homosexual. A year later he reported this belief to the vice-principal, who elicited Gaylord's confirmation of its accuracy. The school board promptly dismissed Gaylord on the ground of "immorality,"' because he had become a publicly known homosexual. There was no criticism of Gaylord's conduct toward any student or of his academic proficiency. No specific sexual conduct was alleged, nor had students, colleagues, or administrators been aware of his sexual orientation prior to his dismissal. Nevertheless, in Gaylord v. Tacoma School District No. 10, a divided Washington Supreme Court held that public knowledge of his homosexuality impaired his academic efficiency and thus constituted sufficient cause for discharge under state law.

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