After teaching orchestra in Brownsburg Community Schools for four years, 28-year-old John Kluge is being forced to resign.
He refuses to call transgender students by their preferred names, versus the names they were given at birth.
"I really do care for all of my students," Kluge said, "which is why I don’t want to be compelled to speak in such a way that I believe I’ll be encouraging them in something that’s dangerous."
The school district stipulates that students must have written permission from both a parent and a doctor to make the name switch. At that point, the name is officially changed in school records, and teachers and administrators are required to refer to them as such.
Those policies, and more, are laid out for the district in an internal document presently available online.The document was distributed to teachers on January 3.
But John Kluge wasn’t having it.
When the rule went into effect, he reached a compromise with school administrators, who informed him he would be permitted to get around it by referring to his students--all of his students, transgender or not--by last name only. So, he did.
But then he was told that this nextschool year, he would have to start using the students’ preferred names. Kluge says he was not given a reason why.
The now-former teacher also claims that Brownsburg Community Schools threatened to fire him only three weeks before the end of the school year. So he submitted a tentative letter of resignation, but when he requested it be withdrawn, the district refused. And posted a job listing for a new orchestra teacher.
This is not the first time an educator has been penalized for refusing to acknowledge a change in name or pronoun for a transgender student. In 2015, a Texas teacher was fired when she declined to use a male name for a six-year-old child that had been born a girl.
The Indiana Family Institute, a conservative nonprofit that promotes religious liberty (and opposes same-sex marriage and abortion), has started a letter writing campaign in support of Kluge. They’re asking people to contact each member of the Brownsburg Community Schools board, and ask that John Kluge be given his job back. Part of the form letter reads, "It appears that the real intolerance at Brownsburg High School lies in the hands of the administration against teachers who hold a sincere faith and a sacrificial love for their students."
LGBQT advocates maintain that when it comes to using a student’s preferred name, the issue at stake isn’t politics or even advocacy, but respect.
But John Kluge is not giving up. Claiming that his First Amendment rights are being violated, he will be appealing his termination at the upcoming school board meeting on June 11. "I’m being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that's a dangerous lifestyle," he said. "I’m fine to teach students with other beliefs, but the fact that teachers are being compelled to speak a certain way is the scary thing."