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‘I Resolve’ educators start new jobs

Blackboard illustration.
Rachel Damiano and Katie Medart both work at Grants Pass Flexible Learning EXperience, a virtual learning school

The two Grants Pass School District 7 “I Resolve” educators who were once fired by the school board are working again, but not at the same school as before.

Rachel Damiano and Katie Medart both work at Grants Pass Flexible Learning EXperience (GPFLEX), a virtual learning school, according to the institution’s online staff directory.

Damiano serves as assistant principal, while Medart is an science teacher for grades 6-12, in addition to some non-teaching responsibilities. The women served similar positions at North Middle School, where they worked previously.

While Medart referred the Mail Tribune’s questions about her employment to District 7, Damiano issued a statement the newspaper after GPFLEX issued a statement to parents about her employment.

“It has been a joy to be back working with families and with coworkers,” wrote Damiano, noting that GPFLEX provides her office space with other administrators. “Although I miss getting to know students in person and playing music for them in the hallways during passing time, I appreciate the rewarding nature of my job in breaking down barriers for families to support student success. I have had nothing but positive interactions with families and staff members who have visited the office and said ‘hi’ while welcoming me back to the district.”

Kristin Hosfelt, communications and public relations specialist for District 7, did not immediately answer an inquiry from the Mail Tribune about why school officials placed both Medart and Damiano at an institution geared toward virtual learning.

Previously, the district issued a statement saying it could not provide details of the educators’ reinstatement and would not be commenting on the matter further.

The latest developments regarding Medart and Damiano comes after a Nov. 9 decision by the school board to reinstate them as district employees, capping a months-long saga which saw them investigated and then fired after they created a video and website stating their views on how schools should handle students’ gender identity. They created the campaign in response to pieces of state and federal legislation on that very subject.

Damiano and Medart were against SB52 and HB5 because they are of the Christian faith and believe, among other things, that “rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person,” according to the complaint against the district they filed in court.

The centerpiece of their campaign against SB52 and HB5 was the “I Resolve” movement, which included a video and website with a proposed resolution stating that bathrooms and locker rooms labeled “boys” or “girls” is, in their view, discriminatory and should be re-labeled as "Anatomical Male" and "Anatomical Female" for “non-discriminatory use” based on the function of the shared space.

As part of their platform, Damiano and Medart also disavowed any school-based policy that would force educators to use any students’ preferred pronouns or name if it conflicts with their gender identity.

The district launched an investigation into the women’s conduct and found, through a third-party effort, they violated district policy by using its resources and did not put enough distance between themselves and their jobs in openly stating personal political views.

As such, the superintendent recommended to the board that Medart and Damiano be terminated and they were, when it voted 4-3 in July to fire them. But the board later reversed that decision 4-3, with board member Cliff Kuhlman being the swing vote.

Board Chairman Scott Nelson told the Mail Tribune after the controversial vote that the decision was a recognition of “the divisive nature this debate has caused within our community.”

The following week, district students informed administration they would stage a “walkout” over the educators’ reinstatement. The protest, held at several district schools, saw hundreds of participants and resulted in several arrests.

Superintendent Kirk Kolb told the newspaper the following day that the district had learned from these events and would look for ways to better manage events like the “walkout” in the future.