Transgender teacher gets OK from New Jersey school board
March 01 2006 12:00 AM ET
To students at
Eagleswood Elementary School in Eagleswood Township, N.J.,
she used to be Mr. McBeth. Now, after undergoing a sex
change, 71-year-old Lily McBeth is ready to return to
teaching as Miss McBeth.
Despite criticism from parents, the school board
on Monday stood by its decision to allow McBeth to
resume working as a substitute teacher. After two
hours of public debate and a private meeting with McBeth and
her lawyer, the board took no action on calls by
several parents to bar McBeth from returning to the
school where she taught for five years before becoming
"It was magnificent," McBeth said afterward.
"You saw democracy in action."
McBeth, a retired sales executive who was
married for 33 years and had three children, underwent
gender-reassignment surgery last year and reapplied
for her job under her new name.
On Monday, McBeth told the school board and the
crowd that she loves teaching and children and looks
forward to returning to the classroom. "This is not
something I got into just as a whim," she said.
Several parents said children in the school,
which consists of kindergarten through sixth grade,
were not old enough to understand the concept of
changing one's gender. "I, as a parent, am appalled to
have this issue brought into my child's psychology," Steve
Bond said. Vincent Mustacchio predicted "chaos" at the
school when the students learn of McBeth's surgery.
Young children will be confused by the
conflicting appearance of McBeth, who has a deep voice
and masculine features but otherwise looks like a
woman, other parents said. "I will not allow you to put my
kids in a petri dish and hope it all turns out fine,"
said Mark Schnepp, who had taken out an ad in a local
newspaper urging parents to turn out for the meeting.
Several people spoke in support of McBeth,
including three transgender people, two former
students of McBeth's, and a handful of others, saying
that the fact that she is a good teacher was more important
than whether she appears as a man or a woman in class.
"There's really nothing to fear because a person is
transgender," said Karina Mari, a mother of three
school-age children who said she has transgender relatives.
School board attorney Paul Carr said McBeth is a
good teacher who received favorable reviews during her
tenure as a substitute. Earlier this month the board
voted 4–1 to accept her application to return to the classroom.
It's unclear how soon McBeth will resume
teaching, Carr said. That depends on the need for
substitutes and the availability of certified teachers
who get priority when a spot opens up, he said.
Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State
Equality, a gay rights advocacy group supporting
McBeth's bid to resume teaching, called the school
board's action historic. (AP)