Official Complaint to TCEA & Resolutions Given by TCEA

My Blog Post

Content Warning: Homophobia, Suicide

I want to begin with a quote I saw on Twitter that speaks to why I am writing this and making this information public: “May our wounds not have the final say. May we see ourselves beyond the gaze of someone who tried to erase us.” – Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis Tweet

Terminology:

To establish a foundation of common understanding before addressing what occurred at TCEA, I would like to define some terms directly related to my harassment and discrimination for you from the GLAAD Media Reference Guide

Sexual Orientation

The scientifically accurate term for an individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/ or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual (straight) orientations. Avoid the offensive term “sexual preference,” which is used to suggest that being gay, lesbian, or bisexual is voluntary and therefore “curable.” People need not have had specific sexual experiences to know their own sexual orientation; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all.

Gay

The adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic, and/ or emotional attractions are to people of the same sex. Sometimes lesbian is the preferred term for women. Avoid identifying gay people as “homosexuals” an outdated term considered derogatory and offensive to many lesbian and gay people.

Bisexual, Bi

A person who has the capacity to form enduring physical, romantic, and/ or emotional attractions to those of the same gender or to those of another gender. People may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime. Bisexual people need not have had specific sexual experiences to be bisexual; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual. Do not use a hyphen in the word “bisexual,” and only capitalize bisexual when used at the beginning of a sentence.

LGBTQ

Acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. Sometimes, when the Q is seen at the end of LGBT, it can also mean questioning. The term “gay community” should be avoided, as it does not accurately reflect the diversity of the community. Rather, LGBTQ community is preferred.

How It Started

This past February, like I have become accustomed to doing every February for the last 7 years, I trekked to the annual TCEA Conference. I have presented at this conference the last 5 years, I have served as a Librarian Special Interest Group (LibSig) officer for the last 4 years, volunteered in numerous ways including as a blog contributor, and in 2018 was a member of the Conference Planning and Steering Committee. In 2019, I was named the TCEA Library Media Specialist of the Year.

I have served this organization with my money, time, and energy and have given more than I can quantify because I believed in the value of this organization and the work that I was contributing to. As many of you know, I came out publicly and professionally as bisexual in 2019 when I co-founded EduPrideAlliance. I have shared my sexual orientation with many of my friends and students through the years, but it wasn’t something I shared on public platforms. Working alongside the other co-founders of EduPrideAlliance, I realized how impactful my public LGBTQ educator visibility could be. I also know, from personal experience, how much work there is to do in education in regards to equity and equality for LGBTQ educators and students, and I chose to start doing that work visibly.

During the course of the TCEA conference, I said my introduction, which includes my speaker credibility and history, 10 times in 10 different presentations (to see my presenter schedule click here). As part of my bio I stated, “I am a co-founder of EduPrideAlliance #TeachPride and a bisexual educator doing equity work to increase the visibility of LGBTQ educators and students.” By stating this, I placed myself in incredibly uncomfortable situations because I know how important it is for educators to hear. As a result of this single statement, I was verbally told that there were “complaints” lodged against me. This singular statement, being heard by homophobic attendees, was the catalyst for a 2-month process for me to file a discrimination and harassment complaint against TCEA and the TCEA Board (see below for the full record).

Much of what I know now about how the events surrounding my harassment and discrimination transpired, were not known to me until after I initiated the formal complaint process. It was not until weeks into the process that I was finally granted access to the “complaints” of two conference attendees. I subjected myself to prejudiced statements, like those by the complainants, because they are the very people who needed to hear that statement about my visibility and equity work with EduPrideAlliance.

All They Heard Was Bisexual

What those two attendees failed to hear and understand was the entirety of this statement and the intention behind it. By stating my bisexual orientation, visibility goal, and equity work briefly in 10 presentations, I am attempting to normalize identities that are not heterosexual. Many presenters introduce themselves by talking about their families, their heteronormative families, and heterosexual presenters do not receive complaints about including personal information about their identities or families in their introductions.

When an LGBTQ person states their sexual orientation or gender identity in a public space, this is a brave and courageous act because inevitably there will be prejudiced and biased people who will hear it and react unfavorably.

I have fought with my own sense of self-worth for my entire life. My own humanity or humaneness meaning compassion, kindness, consideration, understanding, goodness, gentleness, tenderness, charity, and generosity, is constantly questioned by society simply because I am not heterosexual.

I grew up not really knowing anyone else who was LGBTQ. Books, television shows, movies, teachers, all the adults, and everything in my early life modeled heterosexuality as the norm. When I realized that I am bisexual, I turned against myself. I hurt my own body and mind because I believed society’s messages that something was wrong with me.

LGBTQ Facts, Figures, & Bias

As an educator, I work with students and colleagues every day who represent every facet of the human condition, including diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. In Facts About Suicide from the Trevor Project, LGBTQ youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth. LGBTQ youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. Suicide is not caused because of an LGBTQ identity, but rather by how the world reacts to that identity. I want my students to see that I not only survived growing up bisexual, but I am thriving.

According to a Human Rights Campaign 2018 LGBTQ Teen Survey, only 26 percent of LGBTQ respondents age 13 to 18 say they always feel safe in their school classrooms, and just five percent say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people. In education, we say we are here for all students, but LGBTQ students often do not feel seen or valued by their teachers. They often do not have the opportunity to see their identity represented in their curriculums, on classroom walls, or in assigned texts. We regularly fail to acknowledge the implicit biases that we all harbor. These biases negatively influence our LGBTQ colleagues’ and students’ feelings of inclusion and safety.

Examples of biased and offensive things people have said to me or in front of me in the 2019-2020 school year:

  • Only referring to heterosexual relationships: An administrator was speaking to a team of male baseball players, “When you grow up and get married and your wife…” Translation, boys marry girls.
  • Hypersexualizing LGBTQ people: When talking to an administrator about my sexual orientation they said, “I don’t care what dark and twisted things you do in the bedroom.” Translation, because I am bisexual I am a sexual deviant.
  • Assumptions based on ignorance: A supervisor says to me, “I didn’t know bisexual people could get married.” Translation, I would want to/ need to marry both a man and a woman which would be polygamy.
  • Hypersexualizing LGBTQ people: Being asked in all seriousness by a teacher colleague about being bisexual, “So, do you just want to have sex all the time, with everyone?” Translation, since I am bisexual I am attracted to every person I encounter and want to have sex with every person I encounter every moment of my life.
  • Misunderstanding sexual orientation and gender identity: Being asked in all seriousness by a teacher colleague about being bisexual, “So are you a man?” Translation, they don’t understand the difference between who I am attracted to and my gender identity.

TCEA has a clear policy for inclusion.

According to the TCEA by-laws, members cannot be discriminated against based on sexual orientation. 

ARTICLE III. MEMBERSHIP

Section 1. Qualification

Membership in this Association shall be available to all persons who are interested in using technology for educational purposes regardless of race, color, gender, faith, physical handicap, mental handicap, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or any similar status and who agree to comply with the basic tenets of the Association as described in these Bylaws.

Also, the TCEA Event Participant Policy and Code of Conduct, states:

TCEA is committed to providing a safe, productive, and welcoming environment for all event participants. All participants, including but not limited to attendees, speakers, volunteers, exhibitors, TCEA board members, TCEA staff, service providers, and others are expected to abide by the TCEA Event Participant Policy. This policy applies to all TCEA events and affiliate-related events, including those sponsored by organizations other than TCEA that are held in conjunction with TCEA events.

TCEA is committed to diversity and to providing a harassment-free event experience. All attendees have the right to a safe and welcoming environment.

Harassment includes offensive verbal or written comments or negative behavior — either in real or virtual spaces — related to gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, or religion.

The “Complaints”

The complaints from the two attendees reflect their confusion about my identity, which demonstrates needed education regarding the LGBTQ community for heterosexual educators. The complaints from the two attendees also demonstrate their biases and discrimination toward my sexual orientation through the following statements taken directly from their “complaints”:

In this session, she briefly mentioned the fact that she was bisexual as part of her introduction. In the next sentence after talking about being bisexual, she went on to say that she was happily married with two children.

This led me to wonder, what the purpose was for even stating her sexual orientation. Especially in a session about Google.

I cannot speak for others, but I know my district librarian and I felt that it was so strange for her to mention that right before speaking about her husband and children. It was bizarre.

She said “I am a Bi-sexual woman” and I believe the very next sentence was “I am married and have two children”. So, at that point, I was thinking that it must be pretty strange for the first comers to TCEA to hear that (because it was to me).

And I personally, whether right or wrong, I thought, so if she likes women now does she have relationships on the side with women while being married? But, maybe someone would say, that is not any of your business. I agree but she got me to wondering when she made that statement.

Further, I thought, I would feel fine saying I am married to my high school sweetheart. Which these days could be a man or a woman. But I wouldn’t preface it with “I’m a heterosexual woman”. It was very strange, awkward and unnecessary in my opinion.

I have no problem with the fact that she is bi or gay but this is not the time or the place. I could see her maybe saying “I’m one of you” at an LGBTQ+ meeting which we do have at TLA Conference. Strange is the feeling I was left with.

I have heard versions of these biased and inaccurate statements my whole life. Personally, I am equipped to deal with these types of statements and regularly engage with people in conversations about their misconceptions regarding my bisexual orientation. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs; I am not arguing that. I tried to bring to the attention of the TCEA Board and staff, the impact of allowing these attendees, or any uncomfortable TCEA staff member, Board member, conference attendee, speaker, exhibitor, or volunteer to discriminate against someone due to their sexual orientation at the organizational level through granting validity to statements like these. Organizations cannot validate any complaints that contain prejudice or ignorance and must instead state and behave in a manner that shows they are an organization that includes and supports everyone.

Again, the TCEA Code of Conduct applies to this situation and should have been the foundation of TCEA’s response to these complainants:

TCEA is committed to diversity and to providing a harassment-free event experience. All attendees have the right to a safe and welcoming environment. Harassment includes offensive verbal or written comments or negative behavior — either in real or virtual spaces — related to gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, or religion.

Trauma and Harm

My issue is with the actions of the board members who approached me and the Executive Director’s consideration of and attention to these statements, and their subsequent defense of the organization’s actions that give validity to this discrimination. The attendees’ discrimination harms me and will harm other LGBTQ educators and students because now it has been granted validity from TCEA, a professional organization. This complaint process for me was about holding TCEA accountable. Accountability is not just admitting you made a mistake, but working to correct the harm it caused.

At every step through this process, I tried to communicate the harm and trauma being inflicted upon me through TCEA’s discriminatory, harassing, and homophobic words and actions. I detailed the entire process and all of my communication below, including the biased and offensive response from the TCEA Executive Director.

After appealing to the TCEA Board, the member-elected professional educators who steer TCEA, in the final step of the process, I gave them the opportunity to uphold TCEA’s own policies regarding diversity and inclusion and respect members like me in the LGBTQ TCEA community by responding to the requested remedies in my original complaint (see below for the full list of requested remedies). I was completely underwhelmed with their response and lack of actionable steps the organization would take to ensure this doesn’t happen again. As a longtime member, presenter, volunteer, servant leader, blog contributor, and SIG officer, I am disappointed with the actions of this organization. I do not feel welcome as my authentic self. I no longer feel safe.

Honoring Pride Month

Just to be clear, the attendees verbally issued a complaint about my sexual orientation statement to the TCEA Board and Staff. The role of the complainants highlights how difficult it is for me and other LGBTQ people to be visible in educational heteronormative spaces. Their ignorance validates the need to normalize my LGBTQ statements. I am calling out the TCEA Board Members and Staff because they should have stopped it right there. Instead, the TCEA Board and Staff harassed me and discriminated against me by bringing these complaints to me, and then tried to smooth it over and “hug it out.” After completing the complaint process, I feel dismissed because no actual attempts to correct the harm they caused have been made and no actionable steps were discussed or created through this process.

The reason I am sharing all of this and sharing it publicly is that as an LGBTQ person, I know that I am not the first person to experience this, and I know I won’t be the last. Since Pride month is starting, I want to honor the legacy of all the LGBTQ people, especially Trans Women of Color*, who came before me and fought for policies like the ones TCEA violated by publicly holding TCEA accountable. If TCEA is going to have inclusive By-Laws and a harassment-free code of conduct then, as a member of TCEA, I am choosing to hold them accountable, and I hope the next person who is discriminated against and harrassed does too. Due to my going through this process with TCEA, they did make positive changes to the complaint process that will help those who have to go through this in the future. I want people to see the process I went through, how I documented everything, pushed back on homophobia, and chose to educate people along the way instead of just letting them get away with biased and offensive language. I want more of us to push back on educational practices, organizations, and people who discriminate for any reason. I know that TCEA as an organization is not homophobic, but people in the organization clearly are. Many of the people I dealt with through this process and the two complainants work with LGBTQ colleagues and serve LGBTQ students. They need to know how to treat people with respect. I’m not asking anyone to change their opinions or beliefs about anything, but I am demanding they understand how to be respectful and treat LGBTQ people with dignity.

*Trans Women of Color Are the Past and Future of LGBTQ Liberation

*Lesson: TRANSGENDER AND GENDER NON-CONFORMING WOMEN OF COLOR, THE STONEWALL INN AND THE MODERN LGBTQ MOVEMENT

TCEA Complaint & Documentation

[Begin Complaint Form]

Date: Saturday, February 8, 2020

Person filing complaint: Nancy Jo Lambert @NancyJoLambert

Explain the nature of complaint:

In the official TCEA 2020 Program, Charlotte Dolat, convention chair, ends her welcome with, “Our members are the greatest asset to creating change.” In July 2019, I co-founded an ISTE Equity and Action group called EduPrideAlliance, which is working to increase diversity and visibility in education, to promote equity, and to develop a supportive community for LGBTQ educators. As a bisexual educator, I understand the importance of, and am actively working toward, the visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ educators in professional spaces. My work with EduPrideAlliance is included in my presenter bio, which I mentioned in a session on Tuesday, February 4th. After the session, members of TCEA Leadership questioned that statement regarding my sexual orientation and involvement in EduPrideAlliance. 

According to the TCEA by-laws, members cannot be discriminated against based on sexual orientation. 

ARTICLE III. MEMBERSHIP

Section 1. Qualification

Membership in this Association shall be available to all persons who are interested in using technology for educational purposes regardless of race, color, gender, faith, physical handicap, mental handicap, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or any similar status and who agree to comply with the basic tenets of the Association as described in these Bylaws.

Also, the TCEA Event Participant Policy and Code of Conduct, states:

TCEA is committed to providing a safe, productive, and welcoming environment for all event participants. All participants, including but not limited to attendees, speakers, volunteers, exhibitors, TCEA board members, TCEA staff, service providers, and others are expected to abide by the TCEA Event Participant Policy. This policy applies to all TCEA events and affiliate-related events, including those sponsored by organizations other than TCEA that are held in conjunction with TCEA events.

TCEA is committed to diversity and to providing a harassment-free event experience. All attendees have the right to a safe and welcoming environment.

Harassment includes offensive verbal or written comments or negative behavior — either in real or virtual spaces — related to gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, or religion.

Two TCEA Board Members, in two separate interactions with me, blatantly violated the TCEA by-laws stated above. In accordance with TCEA Board Policy in section 2.36, I formally requested the official TCEA complaint form. Additionally, I requested a copy of the complaint(s) referenced by the TCEA Board Members during the two aforementioned interactions to include in this complaint and to add to the official record of this series of events.

Record of events: 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

9:00 AM TCEA Board President 2020 approached me in Salon K on the 6th floor of the Hilton at the end of the LibSig meeting and asked to speak with me out in the hall. They explained that they and TCEA Board Past President 2020 had just heard the news that a teacher in TCEA Board Past President 2020’s district had died and they were both upset about this news. I said I was so sorry for their loss.

Once we got into the hall, TCEA Board President 2020 motioned for me to come over with them and TCEA Board Past President 2020 to a dark corner off to the side. My recollection of this incident is that they started explaining to me that someone from my session Library Curriculum & Instruction Aligned with Standards had complained about my sharing “LGBTQ things,” and they wanted to let me know about the complaint. TCEA Board Past President 2020 told me that if I want to present about “LGBTQ things” I would need to put that into a session proposal and make it clear in the session description.  

I explained that the session was not about, nor did it contain LGBTQ topics. The only LGBTQ information shared was my identity as part of my bio. This is the version of my bio that I share at the start of every session or booth presentation I do:

I’m Nancy Jo Lambert, and I am the teacher librarian at Reedy High School in Frisco, Texas. This is my 15th year in education and my 9th year in the library. I have educational experience in PreK-12. I was in a middle school classroom for 5 years, I was a PreK librarian for one year, I served in two different elementary school libraries, and am now at a 9-12 high school.

I am the immediate past chair of the Texas Association of School Librarians, the current president of the TCEA Librarian Special Interest Group, and the president-elect of the ISTE Librarians Professional Learning Network. I am also a Knowledge Quest blogger for the American Association of School Librarians, and I serve on the AASL Social Media Editorial Board.

I am a co-founder of EduPrideAlliance #TeachPride, and I am a bisexual educator working to raise the visibility of LGBTQ educators and students. 

(In the session on Tuesday, I said the following as well.) It is new for me to share this information, and I am a little nervous about sharing this in professional spaces, but I also want to be part of normalizing LGBTQ educators and students. (I asked if anyone would just wave at me to let me know they see me. After I said this, the room erupted in applause and affirmation.) 

And in my spare time I also spend time with my husband and two children. 

Three TCEA Conference attendees were in my session and confirmed what I said in the session is accurately stated above.

After that, I proceeded with my presentation about library curriculum and the AASL standards during which I made zero references to LGBTQ issues.

Following this explanation of my bio to TCEA Board President 2020 and TCEA Board Past President 2020, I requested further clarification as to how many complaints were lodged, had people come to find them to complain, and the specifics of the complaints. TCEA Board President 2020 and TCEA Board Past President 2020 responded that they hadn’t seen the complaint emails, but they had been directed to address the complaints with me, insinuating they were acting on behalf of the larger body of leadership and the director. I asked for clarification as to whether they were requesting the removal of LGBTQ references in my bio. A definitive answer to this inquiry was not provided as they seemed unsure about what exact directive they were there to give. It was at this point that I began to feel verbally harassed and in an unsafe and unwelcoming environment. I started backing away from them; I was shaking and beginning to cry. I said that I needed to go now, and I walked away.

9:30 AM TCEA Board President 2020 texted me and asked: “Can we talk?” After explaining the earlier interaction with two of my colleagues, I asked them to be present when I talked to TCEA Board President 2020 again, as I was visibly upset, harassed, unwelcome and felt unsafe. I texted TCEA Board President 2020 to accept the invitation to speak again. TCEA Board President 2020, myself, and my two colleagues met at approximately 10:40 AM near the registration area as I wanted to be in a public space this time.

After a few moments, TCEA Board Past President 2020 also joined us. At this time it felt as if my two colleagues were not welcomed parties to the conversation based on TCEA Board President 2020 and TCEA Board Past President 2020’s behavior, but my colleagues remained because they knew I was still very upset and felt unsafe being alone. I inquired if TCEA Board President 2020 and TCEA Board Past President were coming to me with the complaint in an official capacity as TCEA Board Members. They said they were not acting in an official capacity, but as “friends” to let me “know about the feedback” and help me “polish my presentation.” I asked, “If you have not seen or read the complaint, who asked you to come speak with me. Was it the Executive Director?” They both acknowledged that the executive director had initiated this request. I again asked for details about the complaint and was told they hadn’t read the email because it wasn’t “their email to read.” I asked if they had other complaints about LGBTQ topics being brought up by other presenters? I shared that two other speakers had talked about LGBTQ issues in their presentations I had attended on Monday. I asked if they had spoken to any other presenters about complaints. They said they had not, I then asked if I was the only speaker who had been spoken to about an attendee complaint. TCEA Board Past President 2020 then said there have been other presenters in the past who had to be spoken to about “off-color jokes.” I then said that what I said in my session was not off-color or inappropriate. I was troubled and felt attacked by TCEA Board Past President 2020’s inappropriate comparison to “off-color jokes” with my statement about LGBTQ equity work during my quick bio introduction. The implication was that acknowledging LGBTQ advocacy, issues, or sexual orientation other than heterosexual was considered “off-color.” 

At the conclusion of the conversation, both TCEA Board President 2020 and TCEA Board Past President 2020 said that what I had said in my session was ok and for me to “keep doing what I do.” Then, TCEA Board Member 1 asked to hug me and stated repeatedly that they wanted to hug me. At that moment, I felt unsafe, invalidated, and harassed, and I in no way wanted to hug them. TCEA Board President 2020 moved toward me, hugged me anyway, and in addition to the ways that I had already been violated, now I was being forced to hug a person, against my will, who had harassed me and who did not have my consent to touch me.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

I sent an email requesting the complaint form at 8:15 AM and then sent a text to TCEA Board President 2020 at 4:02 PM on the same day that said, “I sent you and TCEA Board Past President 2020 and the Executive Director an email. I would appreciate you sending me the form ASAP. Thank you.” TCEA Board President 202 responded with a text “I have sent your request to the Executive Director.”

Friday, February 7, 2020

In less than 24 hours, complaints on session feedback were brought to my attention not once, but twice during the busiest conference day of the week. However, my request for a complaint form regarding harassment toward me as a bisexual educator took more than 24 hours to be fulfilled. According to board policy 2.37.3, a harassment complaint must be given to the Executive Director or the President. In the case of this incident, both of those people were directly involved. In an effort to get the form, I forwarded my initial request email to 3 additional TCEA Board Members and a member of the Steering Committee. 

I was emailed the complaint form at 8:33 AM by the TCEA Associate Director. Two additional conversations were had with the TCEA Associate Director at around 10:15 AM with a colleague witness and again at around 12:55 PM with two colleague witnesses. In the last conversation, it was reiterated by myself, and my colleague witnesses that it felt like I was targeted because other presenters were not approached with the urgency in which I was. When TCEA Board President 2020 and TCEA Board Past President 2020 came to me, both times, they seemed to have no clear directive, feedback, or complaint to give me.  

Requested Remedy:

Remedy 1:

The TCEA Associate Director issued a verbal apology to me on Friday, February 7th at approximately 1:00 PM on behalf of the TCEA organization. I request written apologies from all parties involved.

Remedy 2:

The TCEA Associate Director verbally assured me that there would not be retaliation as a result of my issuing this complaint. As a longtime member, presenter, servant leader, blog contributor, and four-year SIG officer, I would also like that assurance in writing from TCEA, the executive director, and the Board. 

Remedy 3:

TCEA has clear policies in place for Event Participant Policy and Code of Conduct. In the future, TCEA staff and Board Members will adhere to this Code of Conduct through actionable steps should another incident of this nature occur.

I have still not seen the feedback from my session, but I was told by the TCEA Associate Director that two attendees of my session were made to feel uncomfortable that I used my session as a platform to “come out.” First, it should be noted that as a bisexual person, coming out is not a one-time event. It happens regularly, over and over again throughout the course of my life, sometimes daily. However, I did not use the words “coming out” in my session or use my session as a platform for such an announcement. Secondly, the discomfort that the attendees felt at my public acknowledgment that I am a bisexual educator working to increase visibility of LGBTQ educators and students is minuscule to the discomfort I have felt most of my life living in a heteronormative society. You can read more about my journey to this work here, and my intentional decision to thrive, which drives my intentional statements about being a bisexual educator and the equity work I am doing.

In the future, should any marginalized person’s appropriate actions or words come into question from an uncomfortable conference attendee, speaker, exhibitor, or volunteer, TCEA will refer back to their own Code of Conduct for that person. In this case, the attendees should have been told: 

TCEA is committed to diversity and to providing a harassment-free event experience. All attendees have the right to a safe and welcoming environment. Harassment includes offensive verbal or written comments or negative behavior — either in real or virtual spaces — related to gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, or religion.

The attendees who gave their feedback were, in fact, discriminating against me due to my sexual orientation. However, instead of addressing the attendees’ discriminatory comments, the discrimination was brought directly to me, a marginalized LGBTQ educator who is doing equity work, in the form of harassment. I was then made to feel as if I were in trouble, had done something wrong, and was inappropriate for being bisexual and sharing about my equity work. 

As part of the remedy to this complaint, TCEA will outline in detail the actionable steps being taken by TCEA staff and Board members in the future should anyone violate the Code of Conduct. It will explicitly state how the marginalized person will be protected from the discrimination being lodged against them.

Remedy 4:

TCEA staff and Board members need diversity, equity, and inclusion training. This entire incident invalidated me as a person and made, what should have been a positive professional development experience, unsafe and unwelcoming through repeated acts of harassment.

Remedy 5:

Ultimately, assurances will be made that TCEA staff and Board members will do everything in their power to ensure that an incident like this does not happen again to another TCEA member, attendee, volunteer, speaker, or exhibitor.

Remedy 6:

The complaint form should be made easily available on the TCEA website for any future complainants. The difficulty to acquire the form, added to the requirement to report to a person who could well be the perpetrator of the discrimination and harassment, seems to be designed purposefully to keep potential victims from reporting. This must be remedied. A generic email address and some form of alternative person to contact should be listed as the contact for the complaint process. Example: ISTE Code of Conduct Page

Vision:

The theme of this conference was “Let’s share a vision for the future of education.” I encourage you to read the following to understand how my sexual orientation directly relates to my work as an educator and the equity work I am doing on behalf of all LGBTQ educators:

ISTE Blog Post: LGBTQIA educators create a community with EduPrideAlliance

AASL Knowledge Quest Post: Please give a little respect to me

EduPrideAlliance Blog: How I Came to This Work- Nancy Jo Lambert

My complete portfolio & Bio: nancyjolambert.com

The future of education needs to strive not just for equity and inclusion, but for equality and liberation of marginalized groups and people. LGBTQ people are stereotyped through hyper-sexualization. Being LGBTQ in education is especially challenging because of this stigma. In the last year, I came to my work with EduPrideAlliance after being a closeted educator for 14 years. As a longtime member, presenter, volunteer, servant leader, blog contributor, and four-year SIG officer, many TCEA members already know me, respect me, and have benefited from my work. I come to this equity work from a place of privilege in that I am a white, cisgender woman, with a platform from the education work I have been doing for years. I am intentionally using my privilege and my platform to show all educators that I, and anyone, can be LGBTQ and also be a good educator. Moving forward, I charge TCEA with taking actionable steps to making this vision a reality.

[End Complaint Form]

February 12, 2020 Level 1 TCEA Staff Response

February 16, 2020 Level 2 TCEA Executive Director Response

February 18, 2020 NJL Response to Level 2 Response

My first issue with TCEA’s Level 2 Executive Director response is that my complaint about TCEA staff and Board members’ actions toward me were discussed with the attendees who “voiced concerns” about my session. 

We have reviewed the allegations in your complaint and have discussed the complaint with the president, past president, and vice president, as well the attendees who voiced concerns about your session.

I was told by Kristy Breaux on 2/7/20 that the complaints came through the session feedback form. However, my session feedback form did not show any speaker feedback about my sexual orientation statement. I have been told that there were emails and session feedback, and the attendees’ complaints have been referred to as complaints, feedback, and information, but I have never seen the actual complaints. It should again be noted that my issue was not with the session attendees’ complaints, but with TCEA staff and Board members handling of their alleged complaints. Have these complainants filed official complaints as I did?

According to the TCEA Board Policies, Section 2.36.2, gathering testimony and pertinent information would happen in Step IV of the complaint process during the Board hearing. I request to know why, and to what purpose, my complaint was discussed with the session attendees prior to a requested hearing through the official complaint process. 

My second issue with TCEA’s Level 2 Executive Director response is the many inaccuracies in the statements below: 

Based upon comments received from attendees at your presentation, our staff, and board members understood that a material portion of your presentation focused on sexual orientation and that attendees had been asked to indicate their personal views on sexual preference in a public way. It was indicated that the material and manner of the discussion made the attendees uncomfortable, after which they voiced their concerns to our staff and Board members. If this was not correct, it was the information we were given at the time and we acted in good faith for all parties involved.

We feel that being asked by a presenter to publicly disclose one’s sexual preference during a presentation on an unrelated topic would make a number of our attendees feel uncomfortable, regardless of their sexual orientation or political view, including a person who has been sensitive to or chosen against disclosing their gender identity or orientation in a public setting. The objective of our staff and Board members was to prevent a similar future event if it had, in fact, occurred. We regret if this intent was misunderstood or miscommunicated. We do not object to the content of your bio as it was published for the February 2020 event. Again, we acted in good faith for all parties involved. The intent was to act immediately to resolve the issue. 

  1. I stated in my complaint almost verbatim what I said regarding my sexual orientation in my session. The fact that I am again being accused of saying things about sexual orientation in my session after clarifying what I said multiple times is an inflammatory accusation. 
  2. At no time in my session referenced to in this complaint or any other session I presented was “a material portion” of my presentation focused on sexual orientation. In addition, no discussion of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression was had. In a session that was 3,000 seconds long, this statement took less than 30 seconds, which is 1% of the session time.  
  3. At no time in my session referenced to in this complaint, or any other session I presented, were attendees asked to disclose their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. 
  4. In the session referenced to in my complaint, I did say, after my statement about my sexual orientation and equity work, “If anyone would just wave at me to let me know they see me.” This was not asking anyone to indicate their personal views on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. However, in that intentional statement, I was seeking validation to be seen for my authentic self.
  5. The ways in which what I said are being twisted and used in discriminatory and harassing ways in this response, and allegedly by the attendees who lodged the original complaint, is appalling to me as an LGBTQ educator. 
  6. I do not agree that TCEA staff and Board members “acted in good faith for all parties involved” as I was ambushed at my next scheduled event, the LibSig meeting, where I was leading as the volunteer President. I was not asked or appropriately engaged in questions or discussions about my session, it’s content or my statements about my sexual orientation.

My third issue with TCEA’s Level 2 Executive Director response is their use of the term “sexual preference.” They use this term twice in their response to me, a bisexual person, where I only used sexual orientation in my complaint. 

According to GLAAD, “sexual preference” is listed as an offensive term. 

Offensive: “sexual preference”

Preferred: “sexual orientation” or “orientation”

The term “sexual preference” is typically used to suggest that being lesbian, gay or bisexual is a choice and therefore can and should be “cured.” Sexual orientation is the accurate description of an individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex and is inclusive of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, as well as straight men and women (see AP & New York Times Style).

GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Terms To Avoid. Retrieved February 17, 2020, from GLAAD website: www.glaad.org/reference/offensive 

According to the American Psychological Association and APA style guide, the use of sexual preference is regarded as heterosexual bias. 

Problems occur in language concerning lesbians, gay men, and bisexual persons when the language is too vague or the concepts are poorly defined. There are two major problems of designation. Language may be ambiguous in reference, so that the reader is uncertain about its meaning or its inclusion and exclusion criteria; and the term homosexuality has been associated in the past with deviance, mental illness, and criminal behavior, and these negative stereotypes may be perpetuated by biased language.

The term sexual orientation is preferred to sexual preference for psychological writing and refers to sexual and affectional relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual people. The word preference suggests a degree of voluntary choice that is not necessarily reported by lesbians and gay men and that has not been demonstrated in psychological research.

The terms lesbian sexual orientation, heterosexual sexual orientation, gay male sexual orientation, and bisexual sexual orientation are preferable to lesbianism, heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. The former terms focus on people, and some of the latter terms have in the past been associated with pathology.

Committee on Lesbian and Gay Concerns American Psychological Association. (1991). Avoiding Heterosexual Bias in Language. Retrieved from www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/language 

In all future correspondence with me, and any other LGBTQ persons, I respectfully request that the TCEA staff and Board members refrain from using offensive terms and use terms free from personal bias.

My fourth issue with TCEA’s Level 2 Executive Director response is the references to their intent. 

The objective of our staff and Board members was to prevent a similar future event if it had, in fact, occurred. We regret if this intent was misunderstood or miscommunicated. We do not object to the content of your bio as it was published for the February 2020 event. Again, we acted in good faith for all parties involved. The intent was to act immediately to resolve the issue.

My complaint is not with the attendees who were offended by my statements about my sexual orientation. My complaint is with TCEA as an organization and the impact of the actions of TCEA staff and Board members in addressing that complaint and me. 

TCEA staff and Board members need to understand that in responding with statements about intent, that is a privileged action. It ensures that TCEA staff, Board members, and heterosexual identities are centered in this process and actions while the impact of those actions is marginalized. Stop centering your experience and identities in this process by making this about the intent of your actions instead of their impact. The fact of the matter is, the actions and responses of TCEA staff and Board members reflects structural homophobia and oppression. In the future, should any marginalized person’s appropriate actions or words come into question from an uncomfortable TCEA staff member, Board member, conference attendee, speaker, exhibitor, or volunteer, TCEA will refer back to their own Code of Conduct for that person. In this case, the attendees should have been told: 

TCEA is committed to diversity and to providing a harassment-free event experience. All attendees have the right to a safe and welcoming environment. Harassment includes offensive verbal or written comments or negative behavior — either in real or virtual spaces — related to gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, or religion.

The attendees who gave their feedback were in fact discriminating against me due to my sexual orientation. However, instead of addressing the attendees’ discriminatory comments, the discrimination, in the form of harassment, was brought directly to me, a marginalized LGBTQ educator doing equity work. I continue to be made to feel as if I were in trouble, had done something wrong, and was inappropriate for being bisexual and sharing about my equity work. 

My fifth issue with TCEA’s Level 2 Executive Director response is that the proposals issued below fail to adequately address my remedies as stated in my initial complaint. 

In response to your complaint, we propose the following:

  1. Board and staff members will attend presentations, to the extent practicable, to verify complaints regarding the content of presentations and whether presentation content is truly objectionable.
  2. The Board will continue to receive regular training on diversity and inclusiveness topics.
  3. The Board and staff will discuss internally whether and what improvements may be made to the complaint policy and the handling of complaints similar to this one.
  4. A complaint form will be made more easily available on our website.

While we believe your concerns could better be resolved through further discussion with myself, you are welcome to submit a complaint to the Board pursuant to our complaint policy. After receipt of the complaint, a hearing with the Board may be held. The Board may consider comments from you, Board members, other attendees who have submitted related complaints or information, and other materials as appropriate. The Board reserves the right to limit the amount of time spent on any matter set for the consideration of the Board. The Board may or may not issue a decision immediately after the hearing and may, in its discretion, issue a written decision at a later date. The Board reserves the right to perform further investigation and take further action as it deems appropriate or necessary. Decisions by the Board regarding member complaints are final.

Based on the many issues with the TCEA Executive Director Level 2 response, further discussion with the TCEA Executive Director would be unproductive and would further marginalize the impact of the TCEA staff and Board actions. I officially request a hearing with the Board. 

In the meantime, 

  1. I again request to see the original complaints lodged against me regarding my statements from the Tuesday, February 4, 2020, Session Library Curriculum & Instruction Aligned with Standards (Material Presentation resources linked here). 
  2. I also request to know why and to what purpose my complaint was discussed with the session attendees who lodged complaints against me. 
  3. I also request to know if the three witnesses I named in my complaint regarding my session statements about my sexual orientation were contacted. If they were not, why were they not contacted but the original complainants were regarding my statements?

TCEA Board Hearing Information

Original Complaint Statements No Date (Linked PDF)

February 26-28, 2020 Four Witness Statements Supporting NJL
Sent to TCEA Executive Director

Communications from TCEA Board Vice-President (Linked PDF)

February 27, 2020 Additional Questions for the Board

Thank you for sharing the original complaints with me. I provided a detailed timeline in my original complaint, but I am providing some clarifying information, and then I have some questions.

Timeline Information

  • TCEA Board President 2020 and TCEA Board Past President 2020 came to speak to me at 9:00 AM and 10:40 AM on Wednesday, February 5, 2020.
  • The first complainant also writes “Then, yesterday I attended Google Tips and Tricks for School Librarians…” which indicates that this complaint was written at the earliest on Thursday, February 6, 2020.
  • On Thursday, at 8:15 AM, I formally requested the complaint form from TCEA Board President 2020 and TCEA Board Past President 2020, and TCEA Executive Director.

I have questions you can respond to now or consider as part of the Board Response after the hearing.

It appears that the first complainant was asked to provide a written statement after I notified TCEA Board President 2020, TCEA Board Past President 2020, and the TCEA Executive Director that I was issuing a complaint about TCEA’s discrimination and harassment of me. It also appears as though a second complainant was asked to provide a written statement after I notified TCEA Board President 2020, TCEA Board Past President 2020, and the TCEA Executive Director that I was issuing a complaint about TCEA’s discrimination and harassment of me.

  • Can the board confirm that an official written complaint about my session and sexual orientation statement was given prior to my email notifying TCEA Board President 2020, TCEA Board Past President 2020, and the TCEA Executive Director of my issuing a complaint about TCEA’s discrimination and harassment of me?
  • May I please be provided with a definitive answer regarding where, when, and in what form these complaints originated?

Due to the previously stated issues with the complaints and timeline about my session from the attendees, TCEA Executive Director’s Level 2 response to my complaint appears to contain lies and inaccuracies. The complainants’ complaints were NOT official complaints, in that they did not follow the TCEA complaint procedure.

  • How will the Board ask TCEA Staff, as an organization, to address incidents of this nature in the future? (See the highlighted portion of the TCEA Level 2 Response under suggested remedy 3 from the TCEA Executive Director regarding her statements about the complaint process.)

I want to be clear I do not think TCEA Board President 2020 and TCEA Board Past President 2020 were acting maliciously or with any intent to dehumanize me. I think they were doing what was asked by the TCEA organizational leadership. They admitted multiple times that they had not seen the actual complaints and seemed very unclear about what exactly they were being asked to discuss with me. However, the impact of their actions cannot be dismissed, and the decisions and actions of the organization need to be remedied as requested in my original complaint.

  • How does the TCEA Board plan to react to future incidents like mine which may be brought to them by TCEA staff?

Educators have bias toward LGBTQ people, as indicated by the complainant statements I received in the previous email. TCEA is a leader in educational professional development in our state.

  • Going forward, what will TCEA do to help develop a factual understanding of LGBTQ people and issues for all educators?

NJL TCEA Board Hearing Statement March 2, 2020, 4:30 PM

Transcript (Linked PDF)

Level 3 TCEA Board of Directors Response March 26, 2020

Linked PDF

Updates

This blog was posted June 1, 2020. I shared it publicly on my personal and professional Twitter June 14, 2020 and posted it in the TCEA communities on June 18, 2020. I will include any updates, follow-up, or action taken here.

3 thoughts on “Official Complaint to TCEA & Resolutions Given by TCEA

  1. I appreciate the work you are doing in this field. I am sorry this conference, meant to educate, was instead harmful to you. I hope that the complainants and others realize how harmful this would be to a student of theirs. Nearly every presentation I go to begins with a short personal bio, and a statement about organizations created, books written, or articles published. You should have the right to state those as well.

  2. Nancy I was in one if your first presentations at TCEA and I will say when you said I am a Bi-Sexual educator I paused! I couldn’t believe you actually said it! My son is Trans and I know how hard it is to accept youRself and be proud of it. I don’t even understand why someone would complain! It makes no sense!

  3. I see your bravery and honor your story. Thank you for speaking what’s true. You have ruthlessly protected your aliveness so that you can be in service to yourself, your students, your colleagues, and your profession.

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