SWAMPSCOTT — The principal of Stanley Elementary School has been let go after coming out as transgender last month.

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis has opted to keep Principal Shannon Daniels, formerly Tom, on paid administrative leave for the remainder of the school year and not renew Daniels’ contract with Swampscott Public Schools, which expires on June 30.

“In accordance with the terms of the contract, I notified Principal Daniels of that earlier this week,” Angelakis wrote in a letter to Stanley families. “As this is a personnel matter, and out of respect for Principal Daniels’ privacy, I will not be commenting on the reasons for this decision. Swampscott Public Schools wishes Principal Daniels the best moving forward.”

Daniels, who became the school’s principal in 2012, said they couldn’t comment.

Stanley families were told two weeks ago that Daniels was on a temporary leave of absence and early last week Angelakis said she was extending Daniels’ leave of absence indefinitely.

No reason was given for extending the leave, but initially Angelakis said the temporary leave was a mutual decision with Daniels, which came after several conversations with Daniels, “in which she reported receiving messages that she considered hurtful relative to her recent announcement.”

The decision to not renew the contract comes in the wake of a parents petition that was submitted to the School Committee earlier this month, which declared a lack of confidence in the Stanley principal, with parents saying the dissatisfaction in Daniels’ performance came before, and was not related to Daniels’ recent transgender announcement.

Amy O’Connor, school committee chairwoman, said in a previous interview with The Item that the committee had received a petition on Friday, March 2, which represented a large number of Stanley parents. She said the school committee met in executive session on March 2 to discuss complaints regarding a school employee.

O’Connor said she called the executive session two days before the meeting in response to a large quantity of emails that she had received from parents regarding the school employee, but clarified that the school committee does not make any decisions about personnel matters. The only personnel decision the school committee is involved with is the superintendent position.

“I can’t add any color to it because in the end this is in the superintendent’s purview since it’s a personnel issue,” O’Connor reiterated on Thursday regarding the superintendent’s decision not to renew the contract.

Daniels, 52, a Swampscott resident, announced early last month that they’re transgender and would be presenting as female going forward. Daniels identifies as both male and female and prefers they/them pronouns for a gender-fluid identity, but plans to become fully transitioned to female.

The superintendent’s decision to part ways with Daniels comes after a tumultuous period at Stanley Elementary School following Daniels’ announcement. There was a police presence at the school two weeks ago, and also the week before February vacation.

Angelakis said previously that she and Police Chief Ronald Madigan agreed there would be a police presence at the school to ensure a smooth return for students and parents, which officials hoped would reduce some of the anxiety that parents may be feeling as a result of the heightened media attention.

Madigan previously said that there have been phone calls, voicemails and emails at the school since the principal’s earlier announcement, but nothing that police felt rose to the level of constituting a threat.

Lois Longin, former principal at Hadley and Clarke Schools and director of curriculum and instruction for the district, will serve as acting principal at Stanley School starting March 20 and will remain in that position through the end of the school year, Angelakis said.

Longin retired in 2016 after a 31-year career with Swampscott Public Schools that included teaching K-2, serving as principal of Hadley for nine years and Clarke for seven years, and as district wide administrator until she retired in June 2016.

“A Swampscott native and product of Swampscott Schools, she has a passion for education and a familiarity with our district that will allow her to hit the ground running,” Angelakis wrote. “I know she looks forward to meeting you and your children.”

A transgender boy's lawsuit over a policy barring him from using the male locker room at his Maryland high school is moving forward.

The Washington Post reports U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III became the first judge in a Maryland case to rule transgender students' right to use facilities matching their gender identities is protected by federal and state law.

Russell's opinion this week says St. Michaels Middle High School's policy is discriminatory, forcing the 15-year-old to use a separate gender-neutral restroom to dress for gym class. The teen is identified as "M.A.B." in the suit against the Talbot County Board of Education.

Russell noted courts have stopped enforcement of federal policies violating transgender rights under the Trump administration.

Talbot schools spokeswoman Debbie Gardner declined comment, citing pending litigation.

On Dec. 28, 2014, Leelah Alcorn died after walking into traffic on a highway near her hometown of Kings Mills, Ohio. The 17-year-old identified as transgender, and in a suicide note published online, which became national news, Alcorn wrote:

"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something."

Devon Shanley read in those words a personal call to action. He is a transgender man teaching seventh-grade English in New York City. He resolved to become more vocal as a teacher and activist. While realizing that some trans people do not want to be out, and for others being out may threaten their safety, he believes, "this is what is killing us, this silencing."

Awareness of gender diversity has been growing. And schools in particular have been a battleground for gender rights. In interviews with 15 individuals, and in an NPR Ed survey of dozens more trans and gender-nonconforming educators around the country, teachers like Shanley told us they are becoming more visible, more active, more organized.

They are marching, writing lesson plans, changing the signs on bathroom doors and, alongside their students, pushing colleagues and school administrators and elected officials to improve awareness of gender issues.

Rates of suicide, homelessness and bullying are all higher among transgender, queer and gender-nonconforming youth. The current administration has formally stated that it won't consider discrimination complaints from these youth based on access to facilities like bathrooms.

Many trans teachers NPR spoke to for this article told us they were bullied as students, and they feel that their work in the classroom can be, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

A quick note on the terms we're using here. Gender nonconforming is an umbrella term that can refer to anyone whose appearance or behavior doesn't fit stereotypes of the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender and gender nonconforming people may identify as men or women. Or they may use terms like nonbinary, genderqueer, genderfluid, transmasculine or transfeminine, or simply trans. They may use a variety of pronouns: he, she, they, ze. They may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, queer or any other possibility. Cisgender, meanwhile, refers to those whose gender identity does match their sex assigned at birth.

Forming a Network

Across the country in San Francisco, around the same time that Shanley felt his call to action, a former teacher named Harper Keenan, also a transgender man and an education Ph.D. candidate at Stanford, experienced the losses of some trans people he knew personally to suicide.

He realized, "We have to do a better job of making sure that transgender people aren't isolated. And I thought about my own work as an educator. Teaching is a pretty isolating job." And, he says, it complicates matters that teaching is one of the most gendered professions.

Teachers of younger students in particular are overwhelmingly women. Schools, meanwhile, Keenan points out, often sort students into boys and girls — when lining up, in the bathroom and locker rooms, in sports and phys ed. These are all points of friction for those who don't conform.

He posted on Facebook to start a professional and social network for anyone who worked with students in K-12 and whose identity did not "easily fit" into the gender binary. They became known as the Transgender Educators Network. Before they knew it, they had around 200 members and chapters that now meet in five places: the Bay Area, New York, Baltimore/Washington area, the Pacific Northwest and Minneapolis.

Chris Smith, a high school teacher and member of the New York chapter of TEN, says they come together to discuss issues like: "how to have conversations with your students. A little bit of safety. What school districts to avoid, what states to avoid. Some emotional support. The best time to come out."

As a group, TEN members have marched in rallies, written op-eds and submitted a "friend of the court" brief in support of Gavin Grimm, the Virginia high school student who sued for the right to use the bathroom that conformed with his gender identity.

Idaho’s transgender community won a huge legal victory this week after a federal judge in Boise stuck down the state’s policy banning transgender people from changing the assigned gender on their birth certificates.

Idaho now has until April 6 to begin considering applications for people who wish to change their birth certificates to accurately reflect their gender identity.

The ruling, issued Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale, was in response to a lawsuit that two transgender women filed last year after the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) rejected their applications to change the gender on their birth certificates. Both women said that being identified as a male on their birth certificates has led to discrimination.

One of the woman, identified only by her initials F.V., said that a social security office employee called her a “tranny” after seeing her birth certificate. The other plaintiff, Dani Martin, said she had a similarly distressing experience at a local DMV.

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, almost one in three transgender individuals who showed an ID with a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation were “verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted.”

In her ruling, Dale agreed that such discrepancies “can create risks to the health and safety of transgender people,” who the judge noted already face disproportionately high levels of discrimination. As such, barring transgender individuals from changing their birth certificates to reflect their preferred gender is “unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Dale wrote.

Though applications aren’t guaranteed to be approved, Dale said that “such applications must be reviewed and considered through a constitutionally-sound approval process.”

If an application is approved, the reissued birth certificate cannot have a record of any name changes or amendments to the assigned gender. This is to protect transgender individuals from possible discrimination.

Niki Forbing-Orr, a spokeswoman for IDHW, told the Idaho Statesman on Tuesday that the agency was reviewing the court order and “determining our next steps.”

As the Statesman noted, officials at the department had previously acknowledged that their current rules about birth certificate changes were “unfair” but that they would need a court order to change the policy. 

Idaho is currently one of only four states that does not currently permit transgender people to change their birth certificate gender markers.

State officials in Idaho “must begin accepting applications made by transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates on or before April 6,” a federal court ruled this week, finding the state’s current policy unconstitutionally discriminates against trans people.

Applications to change gender markers on birth certificates, according to the ruling, “must be reviewed and considered through a constitutionally-sound approval process,” and “upon approval, any reissued birth certificate must not include record of amendment to the listed sex.” In the case of a name change, “any reissued birth certificate must not include record of the name change.”

Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn, who worked on the case, said Idaho “previously had a policy of categorically refusing to correct the gender markers of transgender people and the court unequivocally said that is unconstitutional.”

Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ legal organization, filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of two transgender women, F.V. (identified only by her initials) and Dani Martin, each of whom experienced discrimination in the process of attempting to change their identity documents, according to the lawsuit. Upon showing her birth certificate at a social security office, F.V. said she was met with epithets including “tranny” and “faggot.” At an Idaho DMV, Martin said she had to insist upon being treated as a woman, because her birth certificate did not reflect her gender identity.

Idaho, along with Ohio, Tennessee, Kansas and Puerto Rico, currently do not allow transgender individuals to change the gender markers on their birth certificates. The remaining 46 states, along with the District of Columbia, permit changes to birth certificate gender markers, and countries such as Argentina and Denmark have passed national legislation allowing transgender adults to change their identity documents based solely on self-identification.

This week’s ruling, Renn said, “moves Idaho into line with the rest of America and jettisons an archaic and unjust policy.”

“The government has conceded that they have no basis for withholding from transgender people that basic tool that they need to go through life,” he added.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho gave the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) 30 days to come up with a policy in compliance with the court’s ruling. Renn said he expects the government to fully comply with the court’s ruling.

The state’s existing policy, Renn stressed, is “harmful because it outs transgender people.”

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, an estimated 10 percent of respondents had their name and gender accurately depicted on all their identity documents, and more than two thirds (68 percent) said that none of their identity documents accurately reflected their gender identity. Almost one third (32 percent) of those surveyed who presented a form of identification that did not match their gender identity had been verbally or physically assaulted, denied benefits or services or asked to leave.

“This case is as much about safety and privacy as it is about equality and nondiscrimination,” Renn said, adding that Idaho’s current policy “jeopardizes the safety of transgender people.”

There is also a personal dimension to the victory, Renn added. “A birth certificate is more than a piece of paper. It is government recognition of who you are, and it is significant that Idaho is recognizing the gender identity of trans people,” he said. “That means a lot on a personal level.”

F.V., one of the plaintiffs in the case, said she is “excited to be among the first to update their birth certificates” in Idaho.

“I am thrilled and proud that my own state will be updating their policies, even though it required a court order to do so,” she said.

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