Gay music teacher was blackmailed. Instead of helping him, his school forced him to resign

A gay music teacher in Iowa was forced to resign from his high school after a blackmailer threatened him.

Matthew Gerhold began working at Valley Lutheran High School in Cedar Valley, Iowa last year. Although he told school officials that he was gay before he was hired, they later compelled him to resign or face termination after he was blackmailed. 

Gerhold’s phone was hacked in January 2022 and the hacker blackmailed him by threatening to share private information about his sexuality publicly. Gerhold alerted the school about the hack and the blackmail, then resigned from his position at the high school after being told he would be fired following a school board meeting anyway, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Just after he reported the attempted blackmail, photos from his phone were posted to the school’s Facebook page. He was called to an administrator’s office and put on leave.

Gerhold had initially been told he could not disclose his sexuality or even date while employed by the school.

He said that he believes the school and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod view homosexuality as a problem and a choice, not an “involuntary attraction to one sex or another.”

“My sexual identity has absolutely nothing to do with my career in music and my love for music,” he said. “If the church as a whole doesn’t want to use me for whatever they are striving to achieve, then I shall go somewhere else that would love to have me to live out my vocation for others.”

After his resignation, he applied for and was granted unemployment benefits.

The school appealed that decision and a hearing was held on May 2 in front of Administrative Law Judge Blair Bennett, who ruled that Gerhold had a right to unemployment benefits as he had not violated in any way the conditions of his employment, nor had he been accused of workplace misconduct. 

The “argument breaks down to [Gerhold] being told he would no longer have a job because of the actions of a third party, not controlled by [Gerhold], completely outside of work,” Bennett ruled.