- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A transgender schoolteacher in Oregon won a $60,000 settlement from a school district after co-workers allegedly failed to address the teacher by the proper gender pronouns.

The Gresham-Barlow School District agreed to pay emotional damages to Leo Soell, who teaches the fifth grade at Hall Elementary School and identifies as neither male nor female.

Soell, who identifies as “they,” said co-workers continuously used the wrong gender pronouns when referring to Soell, instead using terms such as “she,” “lady” or “Miss Soell.”

Soell also said the school prohibited Soell from telling students about Soell’s gender identity. If asked by students whether Soell were male or female, Soell was told to respond, “We all have private lives, and it would not be appropriate to talk about our private lives during the school day.”

Soell filed a complaint against co-workers, but a district investigation found no evidence of harassment, which prompted Soell to sue the district.

“I actually feel safe now,” Soell told Oregon Live after the settlement. “There will always be people who push the boundaries, but I’m not worried about them anymore because I know that my district supports me.”

Soell began working at Hall Elementary School in 2013, but did not come out to co-workers or the administration about Soell’s gender identity until this year, because Oregon teachers work for their first three years on yearlong probationary contracts.

As part of the settlement, district leaders agreed to build gender-neutral restrooms at all district schools within three years.

Soell said no one has used the incorrect gender pronouns around Soell since the settlement.

“Everyone feels better when they know what the boundary is,” Soell said. “And there was just no line before.”

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