GRANTS PASS, Ore. – The Grants Pass School Board reinstated two employees who were fired over the summer. But the federal lawsuit they filed against the district is still on.
The two educators lost their jobs after sharing their personal beliefs on proposed LGBTQ+ legislation on the internet. In July they were fired, not for their involvement in the ‘I Resolve’ movement, but for using district equipment for a personal project.
The Grants Pass School Board previously voted 4-3 in support to fire the educators. Tuesday night in a 4-to-3 vote the board reversed its decision.
In July, the founders of the ‘I Resolve’ movement, Assistant Principal Rachel Damiano and 7th-grade science teacher Katie Medart, were fired for using district equipment for a personal project. Four months later, after another 4-3 vote, but this one is in their favor they were reinstated back into Grants Pass School District 7.
But before we go forward we need to know how we got here. The ‘I Resolve’ Movement asks local, state, and federal leaders to adopt several principles and policies, including that there are two anatomical gender presentations, male and female. Since the video appeared on social media, some activists have accused the educators of being transphobic.
“Just the mischaracterization of who we are by some,” said Katie Medart.
The initial school board hearing was a close call. The deciding vote was cast by an apparently confused board member. While the educators’ employment is resolved there are still questions about their future.
“Okay, this is great. Now what? Because it was a reinstatement with a big what if,” said Rachel Damiano.
While both educators have their jobs back, their previous positions have already been filled.
“School districts have to move forward,” said Damiano.
But as Damiano and Medart navigate through this next uncertain phase, they hope to strengthen their relationship with the Grants Pass community.
“We’re just looking forward to having a conversation. And how do we come together to actually model what reconciliation can look like,” said Medart.
The educators filed a federal lawsuit against the district after their firing alleging their first amendments rights were violated.
“They never should have been put on paid administrative leave, they never should have been fired,” said Ray Hacke.
It’s still active. Their lawyer said they have no plans on dropping it.
“My clients have gone through seven months of pure emotional hell. Their reputation has been damaged, they’ve had difficulty finding work elsewhere,” said Hacke.
Grants Pass School Superintendent Kirk Kolb recommended the teachers be fired earlier this year. We reported last month that he was not going to seek a new contract with the district, which we’re told the board was fine with. His contract is up next summer.
NBC5 News reached out to the Grants Pass School Board and the superintendent for an interview Wednesday. Both parties said due to the pending litigation they have no further comment.
Grants Pass School District 7 said in a statement Tuesday night:
In a 4-3 vote, the Grants Pass School Board has reversed its decision to terminate two Grants Pass School District 7 employees for violating district policies. The board had previously voted 4-3 in support of the Superintendent’s recommendation to terminate, following an independent third-party investigation.
Personnel matters are confidential, and therefore, the details of reinstatement cannot be disclosed.
Grants Pass School District 7 will continue to follow all state and federal laws. We have school board policies in place to support safe environments for students and staff, and we will continue protecting the well-being of everyone in our schools.
Regardless of race, religion, gender, sex, sexual orientation, or ability, we all belong in Grants Pass School District 7.
Due to ongoing, pending litigation, we cannot comment on this matter further.
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