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Teacher investigated in ‘Gender Queer’ police investigation at W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School files civil rights lawsuit

"[Galdós-Shapiro] 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," Galdos-Shapiro’s attorney states in a press release sent to media outlets.

Great Barrington — Arantzazú Zuzene Galdós-Shapiro has filed a lawsuit against the town, the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, Superintendent of Schools Peter Dillon,  Police Chief Paul Storti, and investigating Police Officer Joseph O’Brien.

The lawsuit is over the Police Department’s December 8 investigation in response to an anonymous report that Galdós-Shapiro, an eighth grade ELA teacher at W.E.B. Du Bois Middle School, had a copy of the book “Gender Queer” in her classroom. The investigation made national headlines.

The fallout surrounding the investigation has continued for months and eventually led to independent investigations commissioned by the Selectboard and the Berkshire Hills Regional School District.

Chief Storti, who subsequently apologized for the department’s role in the investigation, said that he did not believe that the Police Department needed a warrant to search the school for the book.

Galdos-Shapiro’s attorney, Howard Cooper, a founding partner of Boston’s Todd & Weld LLP, announced the civil rights lawsuit in a press release, which was sent to media outlets on Tuesday, May 14:

The book [‘Gender Queer’] 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 teacher, Arantzazu Zuzene 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.

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