The family of a transgender Milwaukee public school teacher who committed suicide claim the woman’s death can be attributed to a decade of bullying she endured from coworkers, and the school district’s refusal to handle the situation appropriately.
Jill Greinke, the mother of 37-year-old Karis Anne Ross, told CBS 58 that her daughter explicitly recalled the endless bullying in a suicide note she left before taking her life last November.
“There were people named,” Greinke said of the note, in which Karis admitted being bullied for 10 years while teaching at German Immersion School. “Before her transition she was being bullied. After her transition she was being bullied.”
In the note, Karis also claimed she’d reported incidents of bullying on multiple occasions but her complaints went ignored.
“I’m still not over her death by any means, so it hurts,” Greinke added. “She was my hero. She was extremely authentic.”
Greinke says she “[doesn’t] blame MPS for my daughter’s death” but is trying hard to make sure a similar situation never happens again. “The goal is for this to never happen to anybody again. So that things are taken seriously for all human beings,” she said.
In hopes of bringing about real change, family friend Madeline Dietrich has written an open letter to MPS superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver.
“I hope that Dr. Driver will acknowledge the incident, in terms of a case where there was bullying happening,” said Dietrich. “I hope she makes a public statement.”
Her letter sheds more light on the immediate situation that was affecting Karis. In it, Dietrich claims Karis took her life over Thanksgiving break because she “knew she must again face the hostility of her support staff and the indifference of her principal the following Monday morning.”
The letter reads in part:
Ms. Ross repeatedly informed the building principal, Dr. Albert J. Brugger. It had gone on for years, but in the weeks leading to the moment Ms. Ross chose to end her life, numerous emails were exchanged between Ms. Ross, school officials and the medical community, all pointing to a crisis which went largely ignored by Dr. Brugger, who rather than mediating or intervening in the conflict, chose to play down the situation and avoided any direct involvement with Ms. Ross and her aids.
It is clear by the timing of the suicide, which took place the Saturday afternoon before Ms. Ross knew she must again face the hostility of her support staff and the indifference of her principal the following Monday morning.
Each aide was named in Ms. Ross’ suicide letter, along with Dr. Brugger, as the primary cause of her grief. Transgender people are too often rejected by friends, employers, landlords, and family, and are forty percent more likely to attempt suicide than the mean population. Ms. Ross was rejected by the very MPS employees whose job it was to assist her in caring for profoundly disabled children.
Dietrich concluded, “It is my hope that you will move forward with a renewed awareness of the grave responsibilities held by public schools in our society, not only in teaching our students, but in setting an example for our population through modeling tolerance for individual diversity and empathy for the plight of our neighbors.”