The Safe Schools Coalition mourns the passing of Jerry Painter

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The Safe Schools Coalition mourns the passing of Jerry Painter

Subject: The Safe Schools Coalition mourns the passing of Jerry Painter
From: Beth Reis
Date: Fri, 7 Nov 2008
"SAFE SCHOOLS: post to \"IMPORTANT NEWS\" list" , "SAFE SCHOOLS: post to main list"

Dear Safe Schools Coalition Members and Friends:

I am writing you with a heavy heart and one of the hardest tasks of my life … to let you all know of the sudden and entirely unexpected passing Monday night November 3 of the inimitable Jerry Painter.

Jerry was a founder and 20-year active member of the Safe Schools Coalition. He was a staff attorney and then General Counsel for the Washington Education Association, retiring this past August. He served on the research team that conducted the Safe Schools Coalition’s qualitative study of anti-gay (LGBTQ) harassment and violence in Washington State elementary, middle and high schools from 1994-1999. He provided legal counsel on a moment’s notice to the Coalition even when he was working incredibly long hours defending public education and educators from hostile lawsuits. His loving, irreverent, acerbic humor and his rock-solid sense of right-and-wrong kept those who loved him sane through good and challenging times.

Jerry used his white, college-educated, male privilege to accomplish great things for children and at the same time he understood and had humor and humility about that privilege and abiding respect for those without it. And he was openly, proudly gay before that was always the safe choice.

Penny Palmer, former president of the Lake Washington Education Association (and now Intervention Team Chair for the Coalition), said of Jerry that he was always there for local union leaders. She described Jerry as a “special person and a caring, wonderful human being.”

Dave Horn, former Washington State Assistant Attorney General, knew Jerry through their work to draft and pass the 2003 Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying Prevention Act. He said, today, that Jerry “was integrally involved in the effort to end bullying in Washington schools. He knew everything about the issue. He understood what happens to kids and he helped to teach me about the issue, especially from the point of view of teachers in the classroom. Without that perspective we would still be going down to Olympia every year begging for someone to listen to us. Jerry was really good at working with people who had different views, which is so important to this kind of work. I really came to think of him as a friend.”

Gabi Clayton, mother of a teenage son who committed suicide after a gay-bashing, and Web Spinner for the Safe Schools Coalition, said today, “I depended on Jerry and he was always there for legal advice and inspiration. I am going to miss him.”

Jerry was an advocate, an organizer, a mediator, a teacher and a friend to hundreds of public school employees throughout the country. He was renowned for his influence as a policy advisor on all aspects of education law, especially in defense of public education and educators, and for legislation on school safety and anti-bullying.   He was in constant demand as a trainer and his sessions, including workshops for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender school employees on how to come out safely and in a way that best serves your students, were a “must do” because of the wealth of information that he shared and because of his totally engaging, accessible style.

Besides helping found the Safe Schools Coalition, Jerry was a founder of the Network for Excellence in Washington.  He also served on the Washington State Safe Schools Advisory Committee, the Governor’s Task Force on School Safety and Youth Violence and various other local, state and national groups. Jerry was a person with many interests.  He was an exemplary gourmet cook; a devout Seahawks and Mariners fan; a reader of fine and not-so-fine books; an inveterate traveler and always a curious learner. 

His dear friend and colleague Frieda Takamura, who co-chairs the Coalition, said today, “Most of all, Jerry will be missed for his fine mind, his high integrity and his unfailing friendship.”

Jerry leaves a sister and a twin brother and a huge extended family, both biological and of the heart. Cards should go to Painter Family, 1115 33rd Ave. E, Seattle 98112.

Memorial gifts are suggested to the Safe Schools Coalition ( or by mail c/o Lifelong AIDS Alliance, 1002 E Seneca St, Seattle, WA 98122)
or the WEA’s Children’s Fund (

There will be a memorial service, Wednesday November 12th, at 2:30 pm at Bonney-Watson Funeral Home, 1732 Broadway, on Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA.

Beth Reis
Health Educator, Public Health - Seattle & King County
Co-Chair, Safe Schools Coalition
10501 Meridian Avenue N
Seattle, WA 98133
Starting 10/10/08:
FLASH curriculum
Family Planning Program
Public Health's LGBTQ web pages
Safe Schools Coalition

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