Talisman

The Student News Site of Ballard High School

Talisman

Talisman

While this might seem like a good step in relaxing beauty standards, the clean girl aesthetic is a cause for concern.
Unnaturally Natural
February 8, 2024
It’s inferable that in a workplace, where conduct is (or should be) monitored and regulated, fighting against harassment, the comments, sly remarks and hovering hands, would be simple.
Smelling like Prison
February 8, 2024
Follow Us on Instagram

Riley and Reardon come out about being out

Openly gay teachers speak about their lives at school

Ceci Atkins, Staff Reporter
Originally published December 23, 2014


Cassin StacyLanguage Arts teacher Shawn Riley summarizes a daily grammar sentence to his third period students.

Cassin Stacy

Language Arts teacher Shawn Riley summarizes a daily grammar sentence to his third period students.

Language arts teachers Brian Reardon and Shawn Riley want success and deeper understanding and enjoyment for their students. They follow the curriculum, they set goals and they teach with passion.

Yet Drama Club activity organizer Riley, one of the two openly gay teachers at Ballard, came out in 2009 and considers himself “a newbie” at being openly gay. After coming out at his previous teaching job at Capital High School in Olympia, Riley decided to clean his slate and move to Seattle.

The new feeling of being recognized as “the teacher who happens to be gay,” came as a refreshing surprise for Riley after the shock of him transitioning his image from a straight teacher to an openly gay teacher at his old school.

“I needed to make a fresh start, I felt like there would always be these questions [about coming out],” Riley said. Riley felt that at BHS students and staff did not see his sexuality as unusual.

“Here people are like, ‘oh yeah that’s Mr. Riley’s kid Declan, and that’s his partner, and it’s whatever,’ and that was really nice,” Riley said.

Reardon, who teaches language arts, advises the Gay Straight Alliance club, and was recently awarded the FOX 13’s Teacher of the Week, saw no alternative to being openly gay within his workspace. Reardon has been teaching since his thirties, and saw it as “silly” to not be openly gay as a teacher when he was already openly gay everywhere else.

“The thought of having to step back into the closet for eight hours a day wasn’t even considered as a possibility for me,” Reardon said.

The fact that Reardon wanted to be able to be an openly gay teacher influenced his choices of where he wanted to teach. Research from Policy.Mic reports that states such as Tennessee, Georgia, Wisconsin and Utah have experienced incidents where people have been fired from their jobs due to their sexual orientation. Seattle, however, has been a generally accepting place for openly gay people and is normally seen as rather progressive.

Despite Seattle’s liberal stance on openly gay teachers, last year Eastside Catholic High School’s vice principal Mark Zmuda was fired for being married to his male partner.

As reported from the Seattle Times, Zmuda was fired on grounds of “violation of Catholic teachings and teaching contracts,” which forbids gay teachers marrying, announcing marriage or wedding plans or “advocating too enthusiastically for gay marriage.” Being that Eastside Catholic is a private religious school, they could legally fire teachers and administrators for being gay.

Before teaching in Seattle, Reardon taught English in Japan for a few years, and was openly gay amongst a selective amount of people. There, he saw a difference in reactions than in the U.S. When he would tell Japanese friends and coworkers that he was gay, they wouldn’t respond with hate but rather with curiosity.

“There wasn’t any homophobia in Japan, there was more of a confused response,” Reardon said. He described how it seemed that Japan was lagging behind the U.S. when it came to openness of gay people, but even when people did come out as gay, it was still expected that they would settle down, marry a woman, and have children. Culturally, it wouldn’t make sense any other way.

Teaching at a high school level, where derogatory terms such as “that’s so gay,” and “you’re such a faggot” are used almost as commonly as “you’re so stupid,” exposed both Reardon and Riley to the ignorance of the students behind these harsh words.

Although students use gay slurs in a negative way, both Riley and Reardon don’t take direct offense to them. They both consider their reactions to homophobic remarks as impartial and similar to those of teachers who are not openly gay.

It isn’t an arrow to my heart when I hear students use that kind of language. I just see it as teaching opportunity to say ‘not cool.’” — Language Arts teacher Shawn Riley

“When they say words like ‘faggot’ and ‘that’s so gay,’ I don’t even think they know what it means [in that context],” Riley said. Both Riley and Reardon conclude that the word “gay,” when used throughout the halls and classrooms is not even referring to homosexuality at all. Instead, it is commonly implicated for the words stupid, dumb, or even lame.

“What if we said that’s so Asian, or white, or Mexican, and meant it to mean ‘that’s so stupid,’ wouldn’t that be offensive?” Reardon said. Being a language arts teacher, Reardon tries to expand students’ vocabulary by choosing words that better exemplify what they are trying to convey.

“There are so many great words to choose from instead of ‘gay,’” Reardon said.

After spending many years at BHS, both Riley and Reardon have yet to experience any homophobic behavior directed toward them from either staff or students. They both report that their experiences at school have been nothing but safe and welcoming.


Ceci AtkinsLanguage Arts teacher Brian Reardon helps a student with his classwork.

Ceci Atkins

Language Arts teacher Brian Reardon helps a student with his classwork.

Leave a Comment
Donate to Talisman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Ballard High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Talisman

Comments (0)

All Talisman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Riley and Reardon come out about being out