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Great Barrington school teacher files civil rights lawsuit following alleged unlawful targeting and search of classroom

A highly regarded eighth grade English teacher has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that she was targeted by Great Barrington officials for unlawful questioning and a search of her classroom Dec. 8, 2023, over the award-winning book Gender Queer.

Howard M. Cooper, Maria T. Davis, and Shayne N. Lotito represent the teacher, Arantzazu Zuzene Galdos-Shapiro.

The book has been the subject matter of efforts at censorship by right-wing groups such as Moms for Liberty, who contend that it contains inappropriate graphic arts drawings of sexual images by trans characters.  Supporters of the book have described it as a lifeline to the gay, non-binary, and trans young adult and student community.  Challenges to the book have largely been unsuccessful.

Ms. Galdos-Shapiro, who serves as advisor to her school's chapter of the nationally renowned Gender & Sexuality Alliance, alleges in her lawsuit that she was targeted for and subjected to an unwarranted and unlawful criminal investigation based upon an anonymous complaint from a school janitor known to Great Barrington officials to be a disgruntled employee following his being disciplined for homophobic and racist comments.

She also alleges that Great Barrington officials knew well and failed to follow the established process for challenging classroom content, and she alleges that these unlawful actions were then followed by the defamatory disclosure by the Great Barrington Police of her name and personal information while linking her to a number of allegations already known to be false suggesting she had engaged in inappropriate activities with students.

She alleges that because of the defendants’ unlawful actions she has been threatened and suffered serious and substantial harm which caused her to take a leave from her teaching responsibilities out of fear.