Four days later, Em Ramser was greeting students in the hallway when another teacher approached and asked, “Are you OK?”
Ramser didn’t know what she was talking about. Then the colleague handed Ramser her phone, showing an article headlined, “Bombshell Claims of GCISD Teacher Misconduct.”
After scrolling, Ramser realized the story was about her, and she started to cry.
Sharla had spoken to the Dallas Express, a conservative news site published by a local hotel magnate. The article quoted Sharla and an email she’d written to Fingers, Grapevine’s principal, that summer, amid her custody dispute.
In the email, Sharla told Fingers that Ramser had “infected” her child with a dangerous ideology and encouraged Ren to change genders. Sharla also alleged that Ramser had a personal library of LGBTQ books, including “The Prince and the Dressmaker,” that she passed around to indoctrinate students.
The article linked to Ramser’s social media and personal website and noted that she identified as queer.
Ramser was shaking as she read.
“It felt like being plunged into an ice bath,” she said, “and you can’t catch your breath.”
Someone offered to watch Ramser’s class, and she headed to Fingers’ office. He told her to make lesson plans and to head home.
For days afterward, a substitute ran her classes. All year, she’d seen news coverage of right-wing militias like the Proud Boys protesting with AR-15s outside of family friendly drag performances, including in Dallas. She was worried that someone like that might show up at her house, or at school.
Parents were sharing the article on community Facebook pages, where some users left comments suggesting Ramser should be arrested or fired.
“This woman has no business being near children,” one parent wrote.
“Time to take out the trash,” wrote another.
It didn’t help, Ramser said, that the school district had issued a statement in response to Sharla’s allegations that failed to note it had already investigated and found the teacher had done nothing wrong.
As Ramser’s email filled up with threatening messages accusing her of sexually “grooming” children, she said she couldn’t bring herself to get out of bed. One person wrote to say they hoped Ramser got monkeypox and died. Someone else spammed her inbox with links to porn sites. Her mother noticed the toll the harassment was taking, at one point bluntly telling her daughter, “If you kill yourself, I’m going to sue that school district.”
A few days after the article was published, Ramser asked Fingers and other school leaders to put out a new statement defending her. The principal told Ramser he supported the idea, but the decision would rest with senior administrators who answered directly to the school board.
In the meantime, Fingers advised Ramser to remove rainbow pride stickers from the nameplate outside her classroom and any other decorations that might signal anything about her identity or personal beliefs. Fingers, who’s Black, made the recommendation during a phone call, which Ramser recorded.
“I don’t have a Black Lives Matter poster,” Fingers told Ramser. “I don’t have a GSA flag. I don’t have anything. … I’m not giving any extra ammunition, because I love all kids.”
Ramser reluctantly removed the rainbow stickers, but the district never put out a new statement.
Fingers didn’t respond to interview requests. In response to written questions about Ramser’s case, a Grapevine-Colleyville spokesperson said the district does not share findings of personnel investigations and “has always remained committed to serving and supporting all students, families and staff, and ensuring that they feel safe and welcome.”
Ramser thought about quitting, but she ultimately decided to return to class the following week. She worried about the message resigning midschool year might send to students.
“I didn’t want to show them that when things are hard, you hide.”