Family and friends of a Milwaukee transgender teacher who took her own life say the suicide was the result of bullying the woman endured at work, and they are seeking to bring awareness to her death in the hope that other suicides might be prevented.
Jill Greinke recently told WDJT News she still misses her 37-year-old daughter Karis Anne Ross.
“I'm still not over her death by any means, so it hurts,” she said. “She was my hero. She was extremely authentic.”
Ross, who was a special education teacher at the Milwaukee Public Schools’ German Immersion School, committed suicide in November 2014, over the Thanksgiving break.
Greinke said her daughter was bullied by co-workers for 10 years leading up to the suicide. After reading her daughter’s suicide note, Greinke said, there was little doubt that the bullying was a factor.
“There were people named,” she said. “Before her transition she was being bullied. After her transition she was being bullied.”
That also seems to be the opinion of Ross’ friend, Madeline Dietrich, who, in an open letter to Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver, recently said Ross faced a work environment where she was “regularly subjected to intimidation and resistance by the majority group.”
Complaints about the alleged bullying were largely ignored by the school principal, Dietrich wrote in her letter.
Dietrich said in the letter that Ross committed suicide on Saturday, before the break was over, because she likely knew “she must again face the hostility of her support staff and the indifference of her principal the following Monday morning.”
But Greinke told WDJT she doesn’t blame the school system. She just wants acknowledgement that the bullying was missed and that it likely led to the suicide.
“It's not to blame MPS,” Greinke said. “The goal is for this to never happen to anybody again. So that things are taken seriously for all human beings.”
In a phone interview with WDJT, Dietrich seemed to agree. She said she published the open letter on her own website, hoping the school system will acknowledge Ross’ suicide.
“The way it was handled is disappointing,” she said. “That it seemed to be more covered up than shared.
“I hope that Dr. Driver will acknowledge the incident, in terms of a case where there was bullying happening,” Dietrich added. “I hope she makes a public statement.”
WDJT contacted Milwaukee Public Schools and asked about the allegations that bullying reports were ignored by the building principal.
A district representative reportedly sent back a statement that read, “Ms. Ross was a longtime member of the Milwaukee German Immersion School staff whose presence is still missed.”
The statement was accompanied by a copy of the district’s anti-bullying policy that states bullying is not tolerated and violations of the policy will be dealt with immediately.
Photo Credit: MaddieDietrich.com, WDJT News