A transgender teacher is suing a Catholic high school in Queens, New York, saying that he was fired after teaching there for more than 30 years because of deciding to begin to live out a female gender identity.
“In a lawsuit, Mark Krolikowski, 59, alleges that after 32 years of teaching at St. Francis Prep in Queens, N.Y., and receiving numerous accolades for his work including leading students in a musical performance for Pope Benedict XVI, he was fired last year after the parents of a ninth grader complained about his appearance.
“Krolikowski remains anatomically male and routinely wore suits and neckties to school where he taught music, social studies and a class on human sexuality. He also wore earrings and manicured his nails in ‘a feminine style’ according to court documents.
“In 2011, Krolikowski was summoned to the office of the principal, Brother Leonard Conway, where he revealed that he was transgender and that he intended to start coming to work dressed as a woman. According to Krowlikowski’s lawsuit, Conway told the teacher that being transgender was ‘worse than gay’ and that he could no longer appear at public events if he planned to begin appearing as a woman.”
According to the New York Post, the controversy over the teacher’s gender identity arose when a parent complained to the principal about the teacher’s appearance:
“. . . a parent took issue with his look and reportedly went to school officials. The subsequent questions from his bosses forced Krolikowski to tell then-Principal Leonard Conway and assistant principal Patrick McLaughlin he was transgender, court papers state.”
The Post also reports that Krolikowski agreed
“. . . to tone down his appearance by losing the earrings and feminine nails, Krolikowski said he got stellar evaluations during the 2011-12 school year. Despite this, Krolikowski claims his bosses called him insubordinate in June 2012 for allegedly continuing to go ‘his own way,’ according to court papers.
ABCNews.com provided a comment from St. Francis’ Prep’s view of the case:
” ‘His employment was terminated for appropriate non-discriminatory reasons,’ said the school’s attorney, Phil Sempervivo.”
A group of current students and alumni have come to the defense of Krolilowski with a petition on Change.org, supporting the teacher and asking the school to offer an apology. In part, the petition states:
” ‘Mr. K,’ as he was affectionately known by most of his students, had worked for SFP [St. Francis Prep] for over 30 years and was always himself: funny, eccentric, loving, and accepting. Ask anyone who had him and they will rave about his stellar teaching and friendly demeanor. In a school in which many of the faculty can often be bossy and tyrannical, Mr. K created a warm and welcoming environment for all his students and their peers.
“However, his long track record of spectacular teaching seemed to carry no weight when a lone parent complained about his ‘feminine’ appearance back in 2011. Mr. K, for as long as we have known him, has always donned several gold hoop earrings, dyed hair, fashionable (but appropriate and professional) clothing, and well-manicured nails. This was never an issue amongst his students or their parents until that one student’s mother complained to the school.
“This is a disgusting display of discrimination and must be acted against and apologized for. While we do not expect Mr. K to return to Prep, we do expect the school to apologize for its behavior and its ultimate decision to expel such a valued member from their staff. In a school that preaches love, respect, and acceptance, we are appalled to see that their lessons come with hateful fine print.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry