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Maria Davis in public radio interview offers insights on teacher’s civil rights suit alleging unlawful targeting and search of classroom

Maria T. Davis in a public radio interview offered insights on the federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the firm on behalf of a highly regarded eighth grade English teacher who alleges that she was targeted by Great Barrington, Mass., officials for unlawful questioning and a search of her classroom over the award-winning book Gender Queer.

The teacher, who serves as advisor to her school's chapter of the nationally renowned Gender & Sexuality Alliance, alleges in her lawsuit that the unlawful criminal investigation was based on 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.

Ms. Davis, a partner at the firm and co-counsel for the teacher, told WAMC that the crux of the lawsuit relates to police and school officials failing to follow school district policy for challenging classroom content, which led to the illegal search and interrogation of the teacher.

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.

The complaint also alleges that the Great Barrington Police defamed the teacher by disclosing 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.

“This is a teacher that has been lauded and has a stellar reputation,” Ms. Davis said.

The complaint seeks monetary damages because of “the decision to release to the public all of the allegations against her without any clarification that these things were false and that the investigation was faulty and never should have happened.  She's tarnished in the public media forever.  Any internet search that comes up with her name will link her to these allegations, despite the fact that they were completely baseless.”

Howard M. Cooper and Shayne N. Lotito of the firm also represent the teacher in the lawsuit.