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A battle over freedom of expression at a Concord, N.H., elementary school

Offended by the “girly” clothes worn by the male art teacher at his daughter’s school, one parent has taken aim at the teacher, the school, and the district — and a group of local “liberty minded freedom fighters” is helping him do it.

From left: Paden Livingston, Jessica Livingston, and Kate West hold signs in support of Silas Allard, the art teacher at their childrens' school who was placed on leave after another parent objected to Allard's choice of clothing.Photo courtesy of the Livingston family

CONCORD, N.H. — One parent’s complaints about an elementary school teacher’s attire has ignited a firestorm in the local community.

The Christa McAuliffe School art teacher, Silas Allard, who identifies as LGBTQ, has been placed on leave after Michael Guglielmo complained that the male teacher was wearing women’s clothing. Hundreds of other parents have come together in support of Allard and are asking the school to do the same. And Guglielmo, who has a long history of arrests and violent behavior in New Hampshire, is calling for the suspension of the superintendent, the school’s principal, and the chairman of the school board – and he’s being backed by the “liberty minded freedom fighters” group to which he belongs.

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Guglielmo, 60, a member of We the People NH, told the Globe he has taken issue with 24-year-old Allard’s clothing choices since September or October of 2022. According to court documents, Guglielmo – who often wore shirts emblazoned with guns and a red hat that read “F–K BIDEN” when picking up his 8-year-old daughter from school – objected to the feminine clothing he sometimes saw Allard wearing outside.

“My concern is that he’s engaging in gender confusion and gender dysphoria. I have no problem with the LGBTQ community,” said Guglielmo.

We the People NH’s founder, Terese Grinnell, a registered nurse and activist, told Guglielmo to document the situation, she said. Things escalated quickly from there.

A photo of Silas Allard taken by Michael Guglielmo in early February and included in Guglielmo's "affidavit" to the Concord Schools Superintendent. There is no publicly available documentation of a “New Hampshire Teacher’s Code of Dress Ethics.” The New Hampshire Code of Ethics for Education Professionals does not include guidance on clothing or shoes.Courtesy of Michael Guglielmo

Photos in the school parking lot

Guglielmo told the Globe he believed Allard was “trying to provoke” him in early February by staring at him and crossing his arms. So, on Feb. 9, Guglielmo took photos of Allard at the school, after asking Allard for permission but without giving an explanation. In an image he shared with the Globe, which was also posted on Facebook, Allard is wearing loose, wide-legged pants; a white long-sleeved collared shirt; a light-blue cropped sweater vest; sunglasses, and Teva-type sandals.

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“I stepped back on my right foot. I looked at my camera, and (Allard) was recording me the whole time. And I said, ‘Give me a big smile, baby girl,’” Giuglielmo told the Globe in an interview. “Boom, I snapped his picture. I turned around, walked away. The next morning I went there with a very large body guard. I didn’t know what I was going to be walking into.”

On Feb. 13, Allard filed a stalking temporary order of protection against Guglielmo.

“A father of one of my students has been coming to the school when I am outside and intimidating me, being aggressive, and homophobic,” wrote Allard, according to court documents. “In the past months he has been showing up wearing clothes with guns and profanity and giving me threatening looks.”

“This man has an issue with me occasionally wearing ‘girly’ clothes to work,” wrote Allard, who noted that Guglielmo also spoke out against him at a recent school board meeting. “He has called and harassed my school and superintendent’s office, saying homophobic things about me and demanding I change my attire.”

In response, Guglielmo wrote up an “affidavit,” which he submitted to the Concord schools superintendent on Feb. 15 and posted online. He shared the document with the Globe.

“I complained to the Principal of the Christa McAuliffe Elementary school about the 260 pound 6′ 4 bearded cross dressing art teacher and she replied that some of her students actually identify with him,” he wrote. “I called the Superintendent Office and was told they can’t discriminate according to Title 9, and sent me to Title 9 officer who regurgitated the same and I replied has this been constitutionally challenged because the last time I checked the legal test in this state is the best interests of the children and how can his right to dress as a woman half the time and man the other trump the rights of kids to be protected.”

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Superintendent Kathleen Murphy said the school board has not enforced a dress code for teachers because it could be discriminatory. “That’s an area that can easily fall into discrimination: telling people what they can and can’t wear,” she told the Globe. “That’s not been a policy that the Concord School Board has entertained.”

In New Hampshire, stalking protective orders must meet certain criteria, including that the plaintiff fears for his or her personal safety. Allard withdrew his request on Feb. 16. He did not respond to the Globe’s request for comment. The principal of Christa McAuliffe School and representatives of NEA-New Hampshire, the teacher’s union that represents Allard, also did not respond to requests for comment.

The school board on Friday confirmed that Allard was on leave, but did not respond to requests for additional information about when the leave started, whether it was voluntary, or whether it was related to Guglielmo’s complaints about Allard’s clothing.

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District employees call police

The next day, Guglielmo and a group of seven people, including Grinnell and members of We the People NH, arrived at the school district’s office without an appointment, demanding to speak with Murphy.

Their sudden arrival frightened a receptionist, who hit an emergency alarm button to call police, according to Deputy Chief John Thomas.

Murphy said staff have been concerned about safety issues recently. The Facebook page for the Christa McAuliffe School had to be deactivated after it was inundated with negative comments from Guglielmo and We the People NH.

“Given some of the rhetoric that’s been going on, the receptionist was unsure of the situation and asked for some support,” said Murphy. “There’s been a lot of social media posts that are concerning to staff.”

Murphy agreed to meet with Guglielmo and his group, who recorded the meeting and posted it to YouTube. Once group members requested to record the meeting, the district made a recording of their own, which Murphy said was not unusual.

According to Murphy, not all of the people identified themselves during the meeting, and only Guglielmo seemed to have a student in the Concord school district. Grinnell described herself as “a taxpayer in the state of New Hampshire,” not as a Concord resident. Guglielmo, who repeatedly stood up and raised his voice during the meeting, wore a red and blue baseball cap with “F--K BIDEN” and the American flag on it.

In this screenshot from a video posted to YouTube, We the People NH founder Terese Grinnell, center right, appears at a meeting with Concord, N.H., Schools Superintendent Kathleen Murphy, front left. Grinnell presented printouts of old social media posts made by a man who now works as an art teacher at the Christa McAuliffe School in Concord. Grinnell was speaking in support of Michael Guglielmo, front right, a Christa McAuliffe School parent who is offended by the art teacher choice of clothing.Via YouTube

In addition to complaining about Allard’s clothing, Grinnell and Guglielmo presented social media posts made in 2016 and 2017, when Allard was in his late teens, that included sexually suggestive material and a reference to marijuana; they seemed unaware that one of the tweets they found offensive referenced “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.”

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“See you in court! Get your lawyers.” Guglielmo said loudly as he left the meeting room. Grinnell accused the school of not properly vetting teachers and wrongfully leading parents to believe Guglielmo is dangerous.

In this screenshot from a video posted to YouTube, Michael Guglielmo speaks during a meeting with Concord Schools Superintendent Kathleen Murphy, left, as We the People NH founder Teresa Grinnell, right, looks on.via YouTube

Guglielmo is a local advocate for bone marrow donation and a single father of three young children. In 1985, when he was in his early 20s, he was indicted on multiple counts of attempted murder and convicted on multiple counts of first-degree attempted assault of police officers during a shoot-out in Manchester, during which he fired 200 machine-gun rounds at police, according to local reports. He served nearly 18 years in prison, earning his GED, a bachelor’s in paralegal science through Ohio University, and a master’s in political philosophy through California State University before being paroled in 2003, according to the Good Men Project. He was involved in a stabbing in 2009, Foster’s Daily Democrat reported. In 2015, he was arrested for sexually groping a juvenile at a Concord restaurant, WMUR reported, and in 2019 he was charged with assaulting a woman in his car and aggravated DWI.

We the People NH, which was founded by Grinnell, is described on its website as “a vast spectrum of Liberty minded freedom fighters” who “believe constitutional rights are worth fighting for.” The tagline on their website reads: “An appeal to heaven.” In their public Facebook group, which has about 5,000 members, people frequently post pro-Trump content and issue calls to action in opposition of state funding for COVID vaccines, voting machines, teaching “divisive concepts” like race and diversity, and the book “Gender Queer.”

One person posted in defense of Allard: “I do feel that if the initial concern was truly about keeping clothing respectable to each gender, you would also be outraged at all the woman teachers wearing pants/pant suites. Clothing is a form of self expression, not a declaration of gender or sexuality.” She was suspended from the Facebook group a few days later.

In an interview with the Globe, Grinnell, who also goes by Terese Bastarache, credited a member of We the People NH for finding Allard’s social media posts, but declined to name the person.

“We don’t want people infringing on the way that we are trying to raise (our children) up, whether it be you know, again, religious, political, sexualization,” she told the Globe. “I mean, those things really should be left to the home.”

The New Hampshire Department of Education is now involved, according to emails obtained by the Globe.

“The Department is following this situation and will take action if there is a violation of the Educator Code of Conduct,” the department said in a statement. The department cannot confirm whether an active investigation is ongoing regarding a particular educator, the statement said.

Parents urge school to support LGBTQ staff and students

Parents of students at the Christa McAuliffe school, meanwhile, have rallied around Allard.

“I find it very troubling that such a small minority of people have been allowed to result in a teacher being out of school for a period of time,” said Reagan Bissonnette, whose son attends the Christa McAuliffe school.

“The fact that these tweets have been brought up from five years ago is nothing more than what I would call a muckraking investigation,” she added. “This is clearly just designed to target Mr. Allard... It has nothing to do with whatever happened five or six years ago on Twitter.”

Nearly 300 people have joined a private Facebook page in support of Allard.

“He’s a beloved teacher and we stand with that community,” said Jessica Livingston, a parent with two children at the Christa McAuliffe school.

“We love him,” said Bissonnette.

Kate West has a 10-year-old child in 5th grade at the Christa McAuliffe School. She said Allard has had a positive influence on her child, who also identifies as LGBTQ. His classroom “is a safe place for kids that don’t necessarily present in a way that is considered the societal cis norm,” West told the Globe. She wants the district to publicly support Allard, which she believes would send a message to LGBTQ students and staff “that they are loved and safe.”

On Feb. 24, the Concord School Board released a statement, reaffirming its commitment to “improve inclusiveness, uplift the voices of historically marginalized people in Concord school community, and create an environment that encourages personal exploration and growth.”

The school board is scheduled to meet on March 6 and is expected to address the issue at that meeting.

Deputy Chief John Thomas said extra police officers have been sent to the school during pick up and drop off hours at the request of school administration “to make staff and students feel comfortable.”

Guglielmo said he has also taken measures to make himself and his three children, ages 8, 3, and 2, feel safer.

“I had security in front of my house for two days. Machine guns, shot guns,” he said. “Because I don’t know if my house is going to get picketed, they’re going to disturb my children.”


Amanda Gokee can be reached at amanda.gokee@globe.com. Follow her @amanda_gokee.