gender and school leadership

We are really aware that our research must not skate over the importance of the realpolitik of wardrobe. What we choose to wear is an expression of how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us. In some cases, this is not a matter of choosing which jacket or scarf to wear today, but whether to dress as the gender you feel.

The story below powerfully illustrates the consequences for school leaders who make gendered choices that go against community expectations. It is perhaps illustrative of limits to the gender choices that school leaders can make.

We would be interested to hear other stories about school leadership and gender choices.

Shannon Daniels’ story

In 2018 Shannon Daniels, an elementary school principal in Massachusetts, wrote to parents of the school where they worked. The letter explained that while they were now ‘he’, they were gender-fluid and would in future be choosing to present themselves differently to the school community.

The district superintendent sent a follow-up letter out straight away expressing support. However, parents presented a no-confidence letter to the school district which listed several concerns, including the safety of children.

Just few weeks after sending out their letter, the principal was told they would be placed on paid leave for the rest of the year, and their contract would not be renewed. But after legal action and negotiation the district offered a lump sum settlement and permission for the principal to return to the same school in a different role.

Shannon Daniels is currently taking a year away from the school getting necessary licences to return to work as a classroom teacher.

(More information in this Boston Globe report  .)