A transgender teacher from Maryland was harassed and discriminated against in three different schools by students, staff and parents, according to a lawsuit.
Jennifer Eller has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Prince George’s Public Schools and Prince George’s County Board of Education for the discrimination she experienced, which included a huge number of incidents over the course of several years across three different schools.
Eller experienced harassment and discrimination on an almost daily basis, according to The Washington Post.
Students accused her of being a paedophile and a pervert, and in one incident, a group of students threatened to rape her and make her “their girlfriend.”
Eller reported that incident – and others – to school authorities, but nothing was done to improve the situation, the lawsuit alleges.
Transgender teacher experienced Unrelenting harassment
In other incidents, Eller was called “a guy in a dress” by two students in a hallway. Once, when she approached students, one said: “I’m not speaking to it.”
When there was an earthquake in the area, some students started to say that it was God’s punishment for the school hiring a “tranny.”
According to the lawsuit, students also asked her about her genitals, and others would run into her room unannounced and shout “he” or “shim” and then run away.
She also experienced transphobic incidents from staff. An administrator referred to her as “sir” or “mister”, even though she started teaching at that school after she transitioned.
Eller also alleges that she was told by an assistant principal in one school not to wear dresses or skirts as it would make people uncomfortable.
The lawsuit said she reported these incidents to the school principal, but no action was taken.
After she transitioned, it took the school three years to change her email address to reflect her new name, and the court filing also said that her old name remains in the employee directory to this day.
The EEOC found that she was “subjected to an environment that contained frequent comments about her sex and surgical status” and that she was “routinely misgendered.”
– Jennifer Eller’s lawsuit
After complaints to school authorities failed, Eller complained to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2015. She alleged in the lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for this, and that she had some of her classes taken away.
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She was also made to attend a disciplinary hearing where she was accused of having thrown a pen at a student, not teaching her classes properly and of raising her voice with students. Eller denied those allegations.
Leave of absence
After she was threatened by a student in 2016, Eller took a leave of absence and was ultimately diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from the discrimination she had experienced.
She resigned from her post in August of 2017 as she did not feel that she would be able to cope if she returned.
The EEOC weighed in on Eller’s complaint shortly after her resignation. The agency found that there was cause to believe her claims of harassment based on gender.
It found she was “subjected to an environment that contained frequent comments about her sex and surgical status” and that she was “routinely misgendered”.
The response also allegedly suggested that the school system was aware of the conditions she was working in and failed to take action to improve it.
Her lawyers are now seeking back pay, lost benefits and compensation for Eller. She says she hopes the case will make a difference to others.
The lawsuit – which has been published in full online – says that Eller transitioned and began living as a woman in 2011.
Her transition was made even more difficult by the fact that she knew she would be going to work in a place that “debilitated her mental and physical health.”