Jeramy Jannene/Flickr

A transgender teacher took her own life, and her friend is blaming the school district

Karis Anne Ross was getting bullied, so she asked for help. No one responded.


Marisa Kabas


Published Jun 15, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 2:15 pm CDT

Note: The following article contains sensitive content that might be triggering for some readers. 

A music librarian who formerly worked in the Milwaukee area penned an emotional open letter to the Milwaukee Public School District superintendent detailing the devastating events that she says led a transgender teacher to commit suicide.

Karis Anne Ross taught special education at Milwaukee German Immersion School before taking her own life in November 2014, according to the letter posted on Madeline Dietrich’s personal blog.

“While the blame for her death cannot be fully placed on the Milwaukee Public School District, it is my opinion that if key personnel had responded appropriately, this teacher may have chosen to continue living,” she wrote to Dr. Darienne Driver.

Dietrich was a friend of Ross’, and confirmed their relationship in an email to the Daily Dot. “I knew Karis from Milwaukee. I was a grad student there from 2010 and 2014. We actually met on FB [Facebook], but it turned out we lived close to each other, so we started meeting for lunch or dinner to talk about stuff, and over time we became quite close.”

In her letter, Dietrich alleges that Ross’ former teachers aides bullied her for an extended period of time. 

“Ms. Ross was the schools’ lead Special Education teacher, a stressful job by any account, but made unnecessarily more stressful by a hostile work environment fraught with tension, disrespect and bullying, not from her students, but from the teacher’s aides assigned to assist her.”

Dietrich says that emails showed that Ross was seeking help from her school’s principal in the weeks leading up to her suicide right after Thanksgiving of last year. But her pleas apparently fell on deaf ears.

“Ms. Ross repeatedly informed the building principal, Dr. Albert J. Brugger,” Dietrich wrote. “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.”

According to Dietrich, Ross’ three aides and Dr. Brugger were named in a note as the “primary cause of her grief.” 

“Before her transition she was being bullied,” Ross’ mother, Jill Greinke, told WDJT. “After her transition she was being bullied.”

Yet Greinke still does not hold the school district responsible for what happened.

“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.”

A spokesperson for the Milwaukee Public School District responded to WDJT with the following statement: “Ms. Ross was a longtime member of the Milwaukee German Immersion School staff whose presence is still missed.”

For more information about suicide prevention or to speak with someone confidentially, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) or Samaritans (U.K.).

If you need to speak to counselors with experience dealing with transgender issues, contact Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860 (U.S.) or (877) 330-6366 (Canada).

H/T Raw Story | Photo via Jeramey Jannene/Flickr (CC 2.0)

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*First Published: Jun 15, 2015, 1:59 pm CDT