A Kentucky-based teacher lost his job after coming out as bisexual in an attempt to help suicidal students.
Nicholas Breiner started teaching chorus three years ago at McNabb Middle School in Montgomery County, Kentucky.
In a press statement, he explained: ‘For years, it was my opinion that my sexual orientation was my business and nobody else’s.
‘When a child is ready to take their own life because they love differently than those around them, you must prioritize their safety over your own privacy.’
He explained he was previously afraid his community wouldn’t accept him for who he is.
After a decade in the closet, he came out with the hope of helping suicidal LGBTI students at his school.
‘I had stayed in the closet for years. But I have had two students attempt suicide this year. I have intervened on five others before they got that far.
‘The vast majority of these students were LGBT students,’ Breiner explained.
‘I decided it was no longer ethical to stay closeted when there was a possibility being out might make me more accessible to my struggling students who might be considering suicide.’
Seeing suicidal youth was ‘truly terrifying,’ he said to GSN.
Breiner spoke about his own school experience: ‘I was suicidal in college. I went as far as to pack up my belongings and go out to make my attempt.
‘Luckily, I had people in my life who supported me and helped me through it. So many of my students feel they have nobody to go to.
‘They’re 12, 13, 14 years old. And they feel the only reasonable option available to them is to no longer exist. It cannot be allowed to continue,’ he explained to GSN.
‘She said “yes, well thank you, sir” and I was dismissed’
Despite having the best of interests at heart, coming out had quite a negative impact on Breiner’s career.
Breiner was pulled from the class he was teaching to be cautioned against being open about his sexuality. This happened the next school day after coming out.
The issue did not stop there however. When his contract was due for renewal, he was told it would not be.
Without prior notice, Breiner was pulled out of a class called to ‘pop by for a chat’ with the principal.
‘I suspected, given the trouble I had been given since coming out, that it might be to notify me of non-renewal,’ he said.
‘I immediately made a call to my teacher’s union representative and was able to get her to the meeting, which visibly angered the principal.
‘My principal then informed me that my contract would not be renewed, refusing to give any specific reasons when I asked. I reminded her my performance as a teacher had been rated overall “exemplary” for two years.
‘There was a long, awkward pause. Then she finally smiled and said “yes, well thank you, sir” and I was dismissed.’
When Gay Star News asked Breiner if he believed his coming out had an impact on the schools decision, ‘it becomes more and more clear to me it was a deciding factor.’
Breiner explained while a vast majority of his colleagues have been ‘exceptional’ unfortunately he remains ‘disappointed in certain administrative response.’
‘Students would rather take their own lives than openly be who they are’
‘The unfortunate truth is many of the people we have placed in high level administrative roles have very little investment in our community.
‘For some, the need to avoid controversy outweighs the need to do what is right for our community and our children.’
Kentucky currently has no laws against discrimination against LGBTI people in the workplace and conversion therapy is also still legal.
The students of Breiner at McNabb Middle School have also experienced a ‘roller coaster of emotions.’
A number of his students staged a protest on 17 June on the steps of the local courthouse.
Breiner says ‘most people have been outraged at the very notion my dismissal was due to my sexual orientation.’
He believes the behavior exhibited during this event ‘creates the toxic atmosphere in which students would rather take their own lives than openly be who they are.’
‘There is a great deal of misinformation about this situation.’
‘It pledges to protect students and employees from discrimination based on ‘race, color, national origin, age, religion, marital status, sex or disability.’ It does not mention sexual orientation.
Montgomery County Superintendent Matthew Thompson claims there was no connection between Breiner’s coming out and losing his job.
In a statement to GSN, Thompson said: ‘There is a great deal of misinformation about this situation.’
Breiner ‘was not fired or terminated,’ he said. ‘The employment decision relating to his non-renewal was not in part, or in whole, because of his sexual orientation. However, I am unable to answer specific questions about the non-renewal due to confidentiality.’