Swampscott transgender principal can return as a teacher under certain conditions

An employment agreement has been reached with former Stanley Elementary School principal, Thomas Shannon Daniels. (Jim Wilson)

SWAMPSCOTT — An employment agreement reached between the former principal of Stanley Elementary School, who was let go after coming out as transgender earlier this year, and the school district includes stipulations on clothing and pronoun choices.

Thomas Shannon Daniels can return as an elementary school teacher in the 2019-2020 school year if he meets certain conditions, such as consistency with pronoun usage, or how he chooses to be referred to, and if he maintains consistent clothing choices, according to an agreement between Daniels, the Swampscott School Committee and Superintendent Pamela Angelakis.

Daniels can return to Swampscott Public Schools, but with a pay cut. He was making $109,056 during his last year as principal and will remain on leave for the remainder of the school year. If Daniels receives the necessary certifications to return as a teacher, he will be paid at a teacher’s master’s level scale at about $79,000, according to the superintendent’s office.

Under the terms of the agreement, Daniels, who became the principal of Stanley School in 2012, will receive a lump sum payment of $90,000 and must provide a note from a licensed psychiatrist clearing him to return to work before the start of the next school year.

The agreement was obtained by The Item through a Freedom of Information request. The details of the agreement were first reported by CommonWealth Magazine.

Last March, Angelakis opted not to renew Daniels’ contract in the wake of a petition signed by parents that expressed a lack of confidence in Daniels’ leadership. Parents expressed a dissatisfaction in Daniels’ performance that preceded and was not related to his gender identity announcement.

The superintendent’s initial decision to part ways with Daniels came after a tumultuous period at Stanley Elementary School following Daniels’ announcement last February. There was a police presence at Stanley after concerning phone calls and voicemails to the school.

Upon his announcement, Daniels chose to be referred to with they/them pronouns, which denoted a gender fluid identity, meaning he does not identify as fully male or female. The former principal also chose to be referred to as Shannon Daniels. The new agreement shows that Daniels will use his full name, Thomas Shannon Daniels, and now wants to be referred to by he/him pronouns.

Before the start of the 2019-2020 school year, Daniels must inform the school district about the title and pronouns he chooses to use. If he chooses to change his pronoun usage during the school year, Daniels must provide two weeks’ notice to the school district and be available to discuss what communications are necessary to provide to students and parents about the change.

“While Daniels retains the right to change title and/or pronouns at any time, Daniels does not intend to switch back and forth between multiple titles and/or pronouns throughout the school year and recognizes the importance of clarity and consistency,” reads the agreement.

In the agreement, Daniels agrees not to change clothing throughout the day, unless necessary for some reason such as a special event or clothing getting damaged. If appropriate, a communication will be issued to students and parents, which will explain that Daniels’ clothing choices may reflect his gender non-binary identity.

Angelakis declined further comment on the terms of the agreement through her executive assistant. Darren Klein, the school district’s attorney, did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment.

An attorney for Daniels did not return a phone call seeking comment. Daniels, through an earlier statement provided by the school district, said he believed the agreement was a “win-win” that “sends a positive message to the Swampscott community, and particularly our students, about responding with empathy, creativity, compromise and collaboration.”

A spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts said their staff attorneys were unavailable for comment on the terms of the agreement on Tuesday.

Jennifer Levi, GLAD (GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders) Transgender Rights project director, was unavailable for comment on Tuesday but said in a statement through a spokeswoman there are “no typical terms” in similar cases as each settlement agreement is designed to resolve a specific conflict between those involved and allow them to move forward without litigation.

Howard Friedman, a Boston civil rights attorney who represents transgender clients, told CommonWealth Magazine the terms of the agreement seemed reasonable but found the requirement of a psychiatrist clearing Daniels to work “offensive.”

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