A teacher in Indiana has been forced to resign after refusing to comply with the school district’s policy of calling transgender students by their preferred names, saying the mandate goes against his religious beliefs and violates his First Amendment rights.
John Kluge, the former orchestra teacher for Brownburg High School, told the Indy Star that by referring to students by their chosen names, rather than the ones they were given by birth, he believes he is being compelled to encourage what he considers to be a “dangerous lifestyle.”
“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,” he said.
Students can only request to change their names after they have written consent from a parent and doctor, according to an internal document posted online by the Indiana Family Institute, a conservative nonprofit. Then, their names are changed in the district’s online record-keeping system, and teachers are to refer to them by that name.
Kluge emphasized that he cares for all of his students and respects their decisions, even if he doesn’t agree with them.
“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.”
He said he reached an agreement with the school district to refer to the students by their last names, which he considered a fine compromise, and he did not explain to students over the past year why he was referring to them by their last names.
“I wanted to present an environment where I wasn’t going to push one way or the other,” he said.
Then, the administration informed him that in the new school year he would no longer be allowed to call students by their last names only. He was not given an explanation as to why, he said.
The 28-year-old teacher said he submitted to the resignation request because the school district threatened to fire him with three weeks left in the school year.
Jim Bohrer, pastor at Hope Community Church whose daughter was in Kluge’s orchestra class, described him as a well-liked teacher who shows respect to all his students.
“He treats them all the same,” Bohrer said. “He cares deeply. This is not an issue of John excluding anyone. This is purely the administration trying to get rid of John for his convictions.”
When Kluge sent the letter of resignation, he included instructions for it not to submitted until May 29, four days after the school year ended. Instead, he was locked out of the school’s email system later that day, and the school quickly posted his position as available.
“They’re acting as if I have (resigned), even though I’m pleading, ‘no,'” he said. “I’m not dead yet. I still want to work here.”
The Indiana Family Institute has launched a campaign to save Kluge’s job, urging people to write to the school board. Kluge had been with the school for four years.
Advocates for the LGBTQ community told the Indy Star that using the students’ preferred names is an issue of respect, not politics or religion.
(H/T: The Indy Star)