76ºF

Transgender elementary school teacher first in Florida

Parent files complaint with Broward County school board

MARGATE, Fla. – After Lucas made the journey from female to male over the summer, undergoing a double mastectomy and starting hormone treatment, he made his announcement to those he works with in the fall.

"Although I was identifying as a miss," he told Local 10 News. "My soul, who I am, has always been a mister."

Those who heard the announcement were students at Margate Elementary School, where he teaches fourth graders. Lucas, who asked that his last name not be mentioned because of concerns for his family, is the first elementary school teacher known to have made the transition while teaching in Florida and one of the very few in the nation. He said students and the school haven't missed a beat.

"A few kids have said, 'Oh, last year you were miss. This year you're mister. How does that work?'" he said. "And I just say, 'Last year that's how I identified. This year, to respect me, mister is the way to address me.' They just kind of go, 'OK,' and it moves on from there."

While parents have also largely accepted the change, there have been concerns from some, like June Hill, who said her daughter came home with questions about it.

"She said, 'I'm confused,' and I said, 'It's OK honey, so am I,'" Hill recalled. "Why is it that I'm just finding out about this?"

Hill contends the school board should have notified parents, and while she is all in favor of Lucas continuing to work as a public school teacher, she said he should have transferred or gone to a different grade level for a couple of years after making the transition.

"If this person wants to work, that's fine," she said. "All I'm saying is why confuse the kids? It's up to me to decide how much or how little I'm willing to tell my kids at what age. It's too much for a grade school child to try to comprehend."

School board officials said this was the first time they've ever dealt with such an issue and they consulted with a school system that had: the Los Angeles Unified School District. Officials said they were determined not to discriminate against Lucas or violate his privacy rights and that forcing a transfer or notifying all parents of what was essentially a personal issue would have done that.

"As things happen in our world, we need to confront them and accept them," said De Palazzo, staff facilitator for Broward County schools' Department of Diversity. "These things are part of life and they make you uncomfortable, but we still need to talk about them."

Several parents questioned at the school voiced support for Lucas and for the school board's handling of the situation.

"We shouldn't be involved in peoples' personal life. If that's her choice or his choice, it's their choice," said parent Jose LaPuerta.

His son Max said that while the news that the teacher had changed genders was initially "shocking" to him, it didn't concern him in the least.

"I think she is nothing more than a teacher. Her gender doesn't matter," he said. "I still remember how she was last year, but now you just have to call her mister instead of miss."

Jim LoPresti, the director of clinical education at the LGBT social services agency SunServe, said some parents may have more difficulty with the subject than their kids.

"Usually children have less difficulty dealing with such things than their parents imagine," said LoPresti. "That's a great learning opportunity for parents. It's a challenge, but it's an important challenge."

Follow Bob Norman on Twitter @NormanOn10

Follow Local 10 News on Twitter @WPLGLocal10