CONCORD, N.H. — A male art teacher who was targeted by a parent and a “liberty minded” political group for occasionally wearing feminine clothing returned to the Christa McAuliffe School on Tuesday after an investigation by the superintendent concluded that complaints against the teacher were unsubstantiated.
Michael Guglielmo, a member of We the People NH with a long history of arrests and violent behavior in New Hampshire, became angry about the clothes he saw Silas Allard wearing when parents picked their children up from the elementary school. He accused Allard of “engaging in gender confusion and gender dysphoria” by wearing women’s clothing.
Another member of We the People NH, a “liberty minded freedom fighters” group, unearthed tweets by Allard, 24, that included sexually suggestive material and references to marijuana. The tweets were posted in 2016 and 2017, while Allard was in his late teens. Members of the group presented the tweets to Superintendent Kathleen Murphy as evidence of inappropriate behavior by Allard, who identifies as LGBTQ.
Murphy placed Allard on paid administrative leave for about a week as she investigated the accusations to determine if they violated any of the rules governing teacher conduct, she said. After interviews with other teachers, the principal, and Allard, she decided they did not. She told the Globe that she forwarded her report to the Department of Education.
Her investigation focused on the tweets, not Allard’s clothing, she said.
“The dress was never an issue,” Murphy told the Globe.
The district does not have a standard procedure about whether teachers being investigated are placed on leave. Murphy said she evaluates these situations on a case by case basis.
“When it has to do with an employee and there’s allegations made by the complainant, it was in the best interest of the employee and us to do a thorough investigation,” she said.
At a pre-scheduled school board meeting Monday night, parents expressed concern about Allard’s absence and its impact on students. Several parents held signs reading “Love wins.” They urged the school board to condemn hate speech, transphobia, and homophobia. Some criticized the decision to place Allard on leave.
“This teacher has been targeted by a CMS parent for the way he dresses. We’re here tonight to share our strong support for this teacher and ask that the district take all steps necessary to ensure that this teacher can immediately return,” said Gilles Bissonnette, the parent of a first grade student at the school. He called the complaints against Allard “baseless.”
“Every day this teacher is unable to teach, we are sending a message to our LGBTQ plus teachers, educators, and students that they also aren’t safe,” he said.
“You must label hate speech as hate speech and assert forcefully that it will not be tolerated,” Tim Sweeney-Fanelli told the school board. “The words you are not saying send the message that some of us matter less, that some of us don’t belong... and that’s unacceptable.”
Allard did not respond to the Globe’s requests for comment. His mother attended the school board meeting Monday, wearing a nametag that said “Mr. Allard’s mom.” She also declined to comment.
Guglielmo also attended the meeting, clad in a Roman legionnaire’s costume with a Go-Pro camera attached to his chest. He brought a banner with Allard’s tweets printed on it that read “This is your art teacher. The story behind the story. Teaching? Or grooming?”
“I am Caesar, Julius Caesar of Rome,” he declared. “Yes. I am also a female. Does anybody here believe that? That I am Julius Caesar? Anybody believes that? No, of course not. It’s ridiculous. I’m not. I’m not a woman either.”
His costume and statements did not support his point about confusion caused by clothing choices, but Guglielmo continued, telling the school board that its duty was to teach “biology, not a social agenda.” He called for the suspension of the superintendent, the principal of the Christa McAuliffe elementary school, and the school board chair.
“Engaging and facilitating gender confusion, gender dysphoria is developmentally injurious to the mental and emotional capacities of children, especially elementary school students,” Guglielmo said.
Terese Grinnell, the founder of We the People NH who also goes by Terese Bastarache, helped hold Guglielmo’s banner and accused the school district of demonizing Guglielmo by focusing on his criminal history. Guglielmo was convicted in 1985 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.
Zandra Rice Hawkins of the progressive organization Granite State Progress tracks right wing groups. In an email, she pointed out that We the People NH has very few active members, is focused on gaining media exposure, and is “not worth a lot of our attention.” Though it has more than 5,000 members, only three showed up at the school board meeting.
Parents speaking in support of Allard on Monday evening greatly outnumbered those speaking against him. Their comments were at times emotional, and several cried as they spoke about their children’s positive experiences with Allard and the harm of his absence.
Madeleine Mineau said her two children enjoy art class with Allard, and her 5-year-old daughter wants to be an artist when she grows up. Children aren’t confused by adults switching between masculine and feminine clothing, she said.
“On any given day, I might wear steel toed boots, Carhartt work pants, a flannel shirt and a baseball hat or a hard hat to work. And the next day I wear a dress and high heels. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s who I am and I have the freedom to do that at work. I’m just as much myself in the masculine outfit as the feminine outfit. My kids don’t find anything confusing about that,” she said. “I think our teachers also deserve the same respect and freedom to be who they are and to feel safe being who they are at work. This whole situation has been a disturbance that our kids and teachers don’t deserve.”
In an email sent to parents Tuesday, the superintendent informed them that Allard had returned to work.
“I appreciated all the letters and emails you sent to my office and after a thorough investigation, I found the social media complaints against Mr. Allard to be unsubstantiated. Mr. Allard’s attire has at no time been an issue for the district,” she wrote.
“As an educator and human being, I reject all forms of hatred and discrimination in our schools and community, but as your Superintendent, when any complaint is brought forward, I must carry out my due diligence regardless of my opinion,” she continued. “This has been a difficult time for our community. I thank you for your patience and understanding over the last few weeks as I completed the process.”