Public Education ‘Has Lost Its Way,’ Says Teacher Fired by School for Telling Father of 11-Year-Old Girl About Her Gender-Identity ‘Transition’

Discussing the lessons provided by her case, the veteran educator advises parents to pay close attention to books and assignments given to students.

Teacher Bonnie Manchester
Teacher Bonnie Manchester (photo: Courtesy photo)

Bonnie Manchester, 48, taught in public schools in western Massachusetts from 1999 until May 2021, when she was fired from Paul R. Baird Middle School in the town of Ludlow after she told the father of an 11-year-old girl that his daughter was transitioning to “genderqueer.” A school counselor had previously sent an email message to other staff members telling them not to tell the parents, according to court papers in a lawsuit filed in April 2022 by the girl’s parents against the town’s school committee and certain school officials.

Register staff writer Matt McDonald recently interviewed Manchester by email.


You describe yourself as a Bible-believing Christian. Describe your faith and what influence it had, if any, on your work as a public-school teacher.

I was brought up in a Christian/Messianic home. I was taught to seek God’s face daily and develop my relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ through the Word of God. Teaching was a calling from a young age and gift that I took seriously, for I knew the value of education in a child’s life. The love, kindness and patience I have for my students comes from that love given to me through that relationship with Christ. The last 12 years of teaching were even more special because of personal trauma that I had to overcome. Through his grace I was able to continue to teach my students. I do what my Father in heaven requires of me. I maintained honesty, integrity and courage to speak the truth in the workplace, for the “truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). In the end, the conviction to do what is right comes from Psalms 118:8, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”


You clashed with the school librarian in October 2019 over books about human sexuality that the librarian recommended to students. What are these books about, and how did they affect your students?

These books are centered on sex acts and exploring sexuality for optimal pleasure. I began noticing because of a designated time in the day where everyone was to be reading for a sustained period. During this reading period, called “D.I.R.T,” I was witnessing students’ faces and actions while reading. This required me to ask questions about the books. The students would disclose the content, whether it be masturbation or oral sex as topics. Some students were having a difficult time comprehending what was happening in the book and asking questions. One book was in graphic-novel form with a rape scene; this student was not understanding what was happening but knew it was “dark.” I had discussions with other teachers experiencing the same things with books being provided by the school. One teacher had a parent accuse her of distributing pornography to her daughter. Things were quickly getting uncomfortable in the fall of 2019. 


In March 2021, you told the father of one of your students that his daughter was transitioning to a new gender. How did the conversation come about? Why did you tell him?

The conversation had occurred in December of 2020, with both parents, regarding my conversation with their daughter. The daughter’s questions about her identity was one of many concerns that were discussed. In February, given the email that “mom” sent regarding their wishes to handle these serious matters as a family, a conversation occurred quite naturally when I saw “dad” in person. I discussed this with the father, knowing that both parents expressed great concern for their children, along with wanting to support/parent them during a difficult time. No school personnel should be asked to withhold information about a minor child’s well-being from their parents. 


Knowing what happened, if the same situation arose, would you still do it?

 Yes, for the reasons above. 


About 90% of elementary and secondary education students in the United States attend public schools. What should parents whose kids are in public schools do?

First, if parents are able to home-school their children, that is the most immediate way to handle curriculum/instructional practices that have crossed lines impeding on both religious and fundamental parental rights. Public education has lost its way and betrays its purpose.

Next, get involved with your local government, including school committee. Go to the meetings, read their policies and know who is influencing these policies. Hold school committees accountable to their responsibilities and powers. Know the school’s current sexual-education curriculum, support materials and projects. Develop a time to have conversations with your children about their classes and lessons. Look at their materials and ask open-ended questions.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get clarification about assignments, expectations and purpose. Know what your children are reading/checking out of the library. Reading the “book jacket” on many of these books gives no indications that there is sexual content. Know your child’s school accounts, what they have access to, and all passwords. Check their email often and any educational chat rooms. You are not being overbearing; use it as a way to coach and guide your child through using devices and programs responsibly. 

Lastly, be a presence at your child’s school through volunteering, going to activities, open houses. Know the messaging presented to the students through “Social Emotional Learning” and school-wide assemblies.