A small measure of justice was served in Emeryville over the past couple weeks. At last weeks’ Emery School Board Meeting, the district read and approved an official apology to late, former Emery High teacher Steve Dain. On Monday, a block of 47th Street was officially renamed “Steve Dain Drive.”
As we detailed in 2019, Dain taught Physical Education in the district from 1966-1976. He was fired following gender confirmation surgery for “immoral conduct” and improper use of sick-leave leading to a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Dain eventually relented after a costly and lengthly legal battle and resigned in 1976 in order to collect his teacher pension. The “immoral conduct” charge was thrown out by a state committee.
“I got into this fight in the first place because I cared about kids, education and human rights,” Dain said in this below 1978 Los Angeles Times clip when he was 39. “But, now, I’m so concerned over paying my bills that I don’t have time to worry about the principles involved. I just want the whole thing to be over.”
Dain went on to pursue a career as a Chiropractor and as a community college professor. Dain died in 2007 from breast cancer at the age of 67.
Dain’s story resurfaced decades later and the district considered naming the ECCL high school gymnasium after him before ultimately opting for another worthy candidate. The decision led to the abrupt resignation of former Board President Barbara Inch who is also the wife of Councilmember and former school board member Christian Patz.
After considering other measures to acknowledge Dain, the board opted for an official apology. Board Vice President Susan Donaldson introduced the resolution through the district’s Equity and Inclusion committee. It was formerly read and adopted at the March 10th meeting.
“As a district, we understand the personal hardships, needless expense and over arching injustice Mr. Dain incurred fighting the unjust decision preventing him from returning to Emery High,” the resolution read. “We regret the harmful actions taken by the district at that time. Mr. Dain was right to expect to return to his job.”
Board President Brynnda Collins read the statement and listed policies that would prevent similar injustices in the district from ever happening again.
Following the perceived slight, the Emeryville City Council took it upon themselves to rename the street where the gym faces in Dain’s honor.
A resolution, introduced by councilmember Christian Patz, was unanimously approved in 2020 and finalized last January. After following the county and post office protocols, the physical signs were installed on March 22.
“I personally think that Mr. Dain’s life was irreparably damaged by the indignities he suffered while working at Emery Unified School District,” residing Mayor Dianne Martinez told the Bay Area Reporter online publication. “I am thrilled that as a city, we can move to repair that damage and give Mr. Dain the respect that he deserved in his lifetime. Trans people will not be erased in Emeryville — not under the watch of this City Council.”
The entire resolution can be read below in its entirety.
The Emery Unified School District Board of Trustees would like to apologize for the employment termination of teacher Steve Dain. Mr. Dain was terminated after returning from gender confirmation surgery in 1975.
As a district, we understand the personal hardships, needless expense and over arching injustice Mr. Dain incurred fighting the unjust decision preventing him from returning to Emery High. We regret the harmful actions taken by the district at that time. Mr. Dain was right to expect to return to his job.
In no uncertain terms, the current school board would never support the termination of a person due to their gender and/or sexual orientation just as we would not support any negative action based on bias. To ensure that such discrimination does not take place in the future, Board Policies and Regulation now expressly reflect that no student, teacher or staff person may be subjected to discrimination, harassment or bullying based on sex, gender, or sexual orientation (among other protected categories).
Additionally, inspired by past and ongoing events affecting our communities, students and staff, we have formed an Equity Committee of board members, staff and students to examine our history as a district, pursue inclusion and celebrate our diverse community. This committee shall henceforth be known as the Equity and Inclusion Committee. We also see this as an opportunity to include the Curriculum Committee in plans for incorporating LGBTQ and gender inclusive professional development training and resources specifically designed for educators and youth-serving professionals.
In closing, we understand that it is important to face and acknowledge past injustice to move our community forward towards a brighter and more inclusive future. Thank you for entrusting us with your children’s education and safety. We do not take the task lightly and we will continue to strive towards excellence and inclusion for all.
In solidarity and with sincerity,
— Emery Unified Board of Trustees