TS Candii, a Black transgender activist who leads Black Trans Nation, wants community leaders to rally behind a Minnesota teacher facing calls to resign after teaching about the renowned trans liberation leader Marsha P. Johnson.
Colin Perucco, a teacher at Minnetonka Middle School East (MME), has received widespread harassment for featuring Johnson during a virtual “Person of the Day” segment last month for Black History Month. A parent recorded the lesson and then sent it to the the Daily Wire, a right-wing site. Since then, there has been a wave of abuse targeting the teacher.
“That teacher should definitely be able to sue the school system,” TS Candii told Gay City News. “That teacher should no longer ever have to worry about another check from the educational school system ever again, or, putting his life in jeopardy. You’re stripping him of not only what he does, which is educate the community but also putting him at risk of eviction and homelessness.”
TS Candii, who was one of the lead organizers behind the successful effort to eliminate the New York State loitering law known as a ban on “walking while trans,” noted that the contributions of trans people throughout history have often gone unrecognized in classrooms and the world at large. And yet, when teachers do recognize that history, they run the risk of facing the kinds of attacks leveled against Perucco.
“Now he has to learn how to survive just for speaking up for a trans leader,” she said.
In a statement, the school’s principal, Pete Dymit, supported Perucco and said his employment is protected.
“I want to let all MME families know that I feel Mr. Perucco is an excellent teacher who is highly committed to supporting the academic, social, and emotional development of our students,” Dymit said in a statement posted on Facebook. “He is loved by his students, respected by his peers, and I look forward to having him as a part of our staff for many years.”
Although MME has now been advocating for Perucco for weeks, the school did not appear to denounce the harassment. According to the Minnetonka Coalition for Equitable Education, a group advocating for diverse school policies, the school created a hostile workplace, leading to more employee abuse and neglect.
“Followers of the DailyWire responded with hate speech and threats of physical violence,” the coalition wrote in a statement on Facebook. “Up to now, no member of district administration has reached out to Mr. Perucco to ask about his well-being or to offer personal protections, nor has the district taken action to shut down the attack on its teacher. The assault has now moved to a heavily-followed YouTube channel, creating an even greater threat of emotional and physical harm for Mr. Perucco.”
The parent who sent the tip has not been publicly named and continues to condemn the lesson.
“Either teachers are unaware of the policies, or they are aware and not concerned with consequences,” the parent told the Daily Wire. “There is no excuse to bring any of this into the classroom.”
In the wake of the incident, students and parents alike are advocating for a more diverse curriculum. In a statement to KSTP, an ABC News affiliate station in Minessota, Perucco is calling for the district to create a safer and harassment-free environment for educators.
“No teacher wakes up and thinks about the political and social agenda they plan to push in their classroom,” Perucco said. “Most of us wake up and think about how we are going to show our students that we respect them, care about them, see them, and hear them.”
He added, “We hope that we can someday be a part of a district that is willing to ask us to strive for excellence and belonging AND back us up when we try to deliver on that directive.”
According to TS Candii, issues like this contribute to LGBTQ students feeling a lack of support and safety in the classroom — and she says the harassment facing the Minnesota teacher sheds light on the broader national push for LGBTQ history. So far, just a handful of states, including New Jersey, California, Illinois, Colorado, and Oregon, mandate that LGBTQ inclusion is taught to students.
“No teacher should ever feel like they’re risking their job or freedom of speech for highlighting a Black trans activist,” she added.
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