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Swampscott principal’s leave came after receiving ‘hurtful’ messages

Swampscott elementary school principal Shannon Daniels.
Swampscott elementary school principal Shannon Daniels. (Jim Wilson)

SWAMPSCOTT — Superintendent Pamela Angelakis has addressed the reason behind the Stanley Elementary School principal’s temporary leave of absence, which comes in the wake of the principal’s transgender announcement.

Stanley School Principal Shannon Daniels, formerly Tom Daniels, who became the school’s principal in 2012, was not at school on Monday or Tuesday. Schools were closed last week for February vacation. There is also a police presence at the school.

“I had several conversations with Principal Daniels last week in which she reported receiving messages that she considered hurtful relative to her recent announcement and the media attention it received,” wrote Angelakis in a correspondence to the Stanley School community.

“We mutually agreed that Principal Daniels would take at least a few days off when school reopened and we would meet this week. That meeting will take place Wednesday.”

Daniels, 52, a Swampscott resident, announced three weeks ago 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.

Angelakis said she and Swampscott Police Chief Ronald Madigan agreed there would be a police presence at the school on Monday and Tuesday in order to ensure a smooth return for students and parents, which would hopefully reduce the anxiety that parents may be feeling as a result of heightened media attention. There was also a police presence before the vacation week.

Angelakis also addressed a Feb. 12 information night on gender identity at Stanley School, which was intended to be for Stanley parents only. She said school officials enlisted the help of two police officers and three district staff members to handle the sign-in procedure and all media requests to cover the event that came to her office were declined.

When The Item contacted the superintendent’s office about the question and answer forum for parents, a reporter was told the meeting was closed to the press.

But Angelakis said a reporter from the Boston Globe was able to gain access to the forum, which resulted in a front page story on Feb. 18. She said she is in the process of investigating how that may have occurred and will share that information if and when she finds out. In her correspondence, the superintendent reiterated her sincere intent was to restrict that meeting to Stanley parents.

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

The police chief said a lot of the fear from people was in the context of the recent Florida school shooting, which raises people’s concerns for school safety. He said what police are doing at the school is out of abundance of caution and to be there to put people at ease and restore the sense of normalcy.

“I am mindful of the fact the last few weeks have been challenging, and I want to assure you that providing a safe, supportive learning environment for all students and staff is the highest priority,” Angelakis wrote.

Angelakis said she was at Stanley all day on Tuesday, where she spent eight years as a principal, and found that she was met by smiling faces. She said she also plans to be at the school on Wednesday.

“Teaching and learning are very much on track here,” Angelakis said. “While we as adults deal with the challenges and distractions that the school has presented, I think it is important that any anxiety we may be feeling is not apparent to students. I firmly believe that you as parents and the Stanley staff are doing a commendable job in that regard.”

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