Lesbian Educator Fired For Her Sexual Orientation Brings Attention to Discrimination in Ohio

Jimmie Beall • Columbus, OH

All Jimmie Beall ever wanted to do is teach.

Jimmie Beall, who faced discrimination in OhioIn her role as an instructor of Government, Law, and Psychology with London City Schools in Ohio, Jimmie not only imparted her knowledge of subject matter, but also encouraged her students to be civic minded and involved in community action, standing against discrimination in Ohio and elsewhere.

“My students were so fantastic,” she said. “They would do a lot of community service work, as well as get really involved in their local government, even setting up and moderating the  election panels for school board races.”

Living in a smaller community meant that Jimmie saw her students nearly every time she went out in public; this also meant that her students and their families saw Jimmie with her partner and children. Essentially, it was an ‘open secret’ that Jimmie was in a same-sex relationship.

“If we went to dinner at Pizza Hut, I would have kids I taught who worked there, and they would see us all together,” Jimmie explained. “It was the same at the doctor’s office, the dentist, everywhere. They saw us together as a family, even though it wasn’t anything we talked about or proclaimed.”

As a well-loved educator who had received stellar evaluations supervisors, had great collegial relationships, and whose contract had been renewed, there was never any indication that Jimmie’s livelihood was in jeopardy.

However, the Friday before Spring Break, Jimmie was informed that at the next school board meeting, the board would vote to terminate her contract. Her immediate reaction was shock, confusion, and anger.

“I was totally caught off guard. They told me they no longer needed a full-time government teacher, which I knew couldn’t be true — they had just started construction on a new high school because our student population was growing.” The principal also told her in their discussion that she was “not qualified.”

“First of all, yes, I was qualified. Secondly, if they thought I wasn’t qualified, why in the world would they renew my contract and give me great evaluations?” she said. “It didn’t add up.”

* * *

Jimmie decided to do some investigating; she found that a discussion among people about her being a lesbian made its way to the superintendent, after which Jimmie’s termination was put before the board for a vote.

One silver lining to this black cloud was the overwhelming support Jimmie experienced from her students and their families, urging her to fight the actions of the board and take a stand to show that discrimination in Ohio – and anywhere – was unacceptable.

“I used to have a banner in my classroom: ‘Stand for what you know is right, even if you’re standing alone.’ A lot of my kids came to me and kept giving me that advice and held me to it; they needed me to set the example. It never occurred to me that people would try and discredit me, but it occurred to everyone else in instances of anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination. People were so supportive in this rural, conservative community. It was amazing.”

Jimmie Beall, who faced discrimination in Ohio

Although she was considering legal action and had support from her Ohio Education Association representative, first on Jimmie’s mind was the well-being of her family, who were now in crisis due to the loss of her insurance, as well as the loss of her income.

Jimmie decided to do some investigating; she found that a discussion among people about her being a lesbian made its way to the superintendent, after which Jimmie’s termination was put before the board for a vote.

“I pounded the pavement, and by the following week I had a job, but the main question was my kids having insurance. I called an attorney, and I couldn’t believe it, but they said for the kids to go on my partner’s insurance, I would have to give up my parental rights. The overwhelming sense of desperation and obstacles at every time turn made me feel anxious and raw — like my skin was being peeled off.”

* * *

Eventually, Jimmie did file a federal lawsuit, claiming that she had been terminated unfairly on the basis of her sexual orientation. Jimmie admits that going into the suit, she was a bit naive regarding the entire process.

“What I didn’t know at the time was that the only way to get policy changes was to settle, and the only way to get to court was to ask for money. I did both those things, and as a result they ultimately agreed to change their policy.”

“It was an excruciatingly long time to have our story available publicly, with no resolution, and still lack the needed protections to prevent a repeat.” – Jimmie Beall

After a three-year battle, a settlement was reached in 2006. Although everything was now behind her, Jimmie says the hardest part wasn’t the actual legal proceedings, it was being the face of the issue, and fearing that because of that, the situation might repeat itself in the future.

Jimmie Beall, who faced discrimination in Ohio“It was an excruciatingly long time to have our story available publicly, with no resolution, and still lack the needed protections to prevent a repeat.”

Jimmie now works for Columbus City Schools, a fully inclusive district with comprehensive non-discrimination protections for faculty and students alike. Although she feels secure and protected at her job, Jimmie continues to be an advocate for LGBTQ people throughout Ohio who don’t have the same security as her — she recently testified as one of many witnesses before the Ohio House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee on the need to pass Ohio House Bill 160, also known as the Ohio Fairness Act, which would enact statewide comprehensive non-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people across the Buckeye State.

“Unfortunately, there are places where discrimination happens regularly. What lawmakers need to understand is that this is a definite problem, and the only way to address it is to put something in writing. We can change minds and hearts — some people won’t listen, but if we change this law, discrimination won’t be a wide-open door.”

Always the educator, Jimmie says that at the end of the day, all the work she and countless others are doing to combat discrimination in Ohio and ensure fairness for all is most impactful to the young people watching, some of whom want to be part of the process.

“Our students are watching,” Jimmie said “They realize adults have a measure of power they don’t. If adults aren’t safe, kids definitely don’t feel safe.”



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