When you decide to become a teacher, you’re entering a world where your own personal preferences and beliefs often times need to take a backseat in the classroom.
In today’s day and age, where society has become more progressive than in past years, teachers are often times trained in seminars that focus on acceptance, diversity, and identity struggles amongst students–which include those students who are part of the LGBTQ community. Professional development seminars focused on dignity for all students are now required to obtain a teaching certification in many states across America. However, one Indiana teacher has decided he wants to forgo all of the conversations on acceptance and flip the bird to the rules.
Indiana high school orchestra teacher John Kluge, who was previously employed at Brownsburg High School, told IndyStar.com that he “refuses” to call his transgender or non-binary students by their preferred name, nor recognize them as their preferred gender. Many students who identify as transgender do not have the resources to change their name legally as teenagers, and, instead, they will ask teachers and other school professions to call them by a “preferred name.” However, Kluge states that by doing this, he is going against his own religious beliefs. He also stated that forcing him to identify the students as such is a violation of his First Amendment rights.
He told the publication:
I’m being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that’s 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.
In the past, Kluge found a loophole in the system by referring to his students by their last-names only–never having to face the issue of “preferred first-name changes.” However, after complaints, a school administrator stated that Kluge has to begin to honor his student’s preferences and honor their decision to change their name, identity, and/or gender.
After disagreements with the administration at his school, the district threatened to fire Kluge with only three weeks left of the school year. In retaliation, he submitted a “tentative letter of resignation.” However, he later asked to withdraw the letter, claiming he still wanted to work at the school–loving his students and his job.
But, Kluge told reporters that he was “locked out of the district’s email system,” and that the district had already posted a job opening online for a high school orchestra teacher.
They’re acting as if I have (resigned), even though I’m pleading, ‘no.’ I’m not dead yet. I still want to work here.
I really do care for all of my students, 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.”
Several religious organizations in the area, who also protest same-sex marriage and abortion, have begun sending out petitions and emailing the district’s board members advocating to keep Kluge employed at the high school. However, LGBTQ activists and other members of the community have expressed that Kluge’s decision to ignore his student’s identity beliefs is not an issue of religious belief, but an issue of lack of respect for his students.
Many celebrities and influencers have spoken out recently about anti-LGBTQ movements linked to religion–including Seth MacFarlane, who spoke out against the Colorado baker who “refused to bake cakes for gay weddings.” After the Supreme Court issued this as a case of “religious freedom,” MacFarlane compared the situation to America when individuals would refuse to sit next to another person becasue they were black.
— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) June 4, 2018
Kluge is now appealing the “termination” with the school district, claiming his exit from the school was “unjust” after teaching there for four years. He claimed it is a “religious freedom” of his to refrain from supporting his students and their identity decisions–even after the students have changed their name through the school administration.
Many people on Twitter are against Kluge on this debate, stating that it is a matter of respecting individuals identities.
John Kluge claims his district's policy for respecting trans students' chosen names violates his religious liberties. ?
It's not hard, respect trans identities! https://t.co/e4eQuwH9Rz
— Logo ?️? (@LogoTV) June 6, 2018
— Joshua (@goozy76) June 6, 2018
#JohnKluge needs no help. He needs to go away and accept that people deserve respect, especially those with different opinions. If he can’t give respect then he certainly doesn’t deserve respect. #ReligiousBigot #YourGodIsFake #GayCakesAreHereToStay https://t.co/4T52WEJXMN
— FingerBomber (@FingerBomber) June 6, 2018
My cis son picked his middle name at 4. We legalized it. HE CHOSE IT, not us. It's called A NAME, belonging to the PERSON. Would this asshole deny that, too?: An Indiana Teacher Says It’s Against His Religion to Call Trans Students By Their Names https://t.co/g0kFDxLlc6 via @them
— Alicia Hendley (@AliciaMHendley) June 6, 2018
As someone who works in a high school, I can tell you that calling students by their preferred names is not that hard.
— Teresa ? (@teresa3llen) June 7, 2018
Hard to believe he ever was a teacher. I wouldn't want that guy teaching my kid anything.
— David Cifaldi (@DavidCifaldi) June 7, 2018
His religious beliefs might keep HIM from being trans but on what planet does a teacher, any teacher, get to pick and choose what to call their student? If the parent states that their child’s name is “Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All,” then thats the name the teacher should use.
— GinnyX (@GinnyX) June 6, 2018
— Alexa (@lexxxxaaaa_) June 7, 2018
His misguided attempt at being a Christian would be shunned by Jesus Christ. To use God to discriminate is nothing new.
— L. Scott (@LMoondog06) June 7, 2018
Time for a career change.
— Kara Herberich (@kherberich) June 6, 2018
Policy is if a parent & the student's MD both say call student by a different name, teachers must. Funny how conservative Christians are all for parental rights until parents want their trans children treated w/ respect. Teaching music doesn't qualify you to make that decision. https://t.co/DKmZ893naU
— Nick Gorton MD?️? (@RNickGorton) June 6, 2018
Hope this teacher who is refusing to call trans students by their preferred names also doesn’t allow nicknames, modifications, or anything but the person’s birth name. Because that’s how ridiculous he sounds and is the logical conclusion of his stance. https://t.co/kQRkkkUQJh
— Dianna E. Anderson ?️? (@diannaeanderson) June 6, 2018
Who cares what he believes? He’s a teacher. He should do the right thing for the children in his care, who are probably already bullied. Call them by their name. It’s not that hard.
— Lydia (@MommyFourBoys) June 6, 2018
You know what you do if you're a Trans student and your teacher refuses to use your chosen name? Walk out of their class. And get as many other kids as possible to do the same.
— Sebastian Troy ? (@00MadHatter) June 6, 2018
A teacher at a school in Indiana was fired bc he refused to call trans students by their preferred names and i think that’s beautiful
— detective jj bittenbinder (@HOODlEMONTANA) June 6, 2018
Religion isn't an excuse to be a bigot. You're using religion to be transphobic. Fuck off. If you can't be respectful and kind, don't be a teacher.
An Indiana Teacher Says It’s Against His Religion to Call Trans Students By Their Names https://t.co/6UHce2tfsY via @them
— Mady??? (@WickedVegetabl3) June 6, 2018
If you’re a teacher and can call someone by a preferred nickname then you can learn a trans student’s preferred name and pronouns you fucking piece of shit
— Bradford"Bread"Olson (@bradleyfurd) June 6, 2018
I'll add this to an increasingly long list of dubious lawsuits. A teacher in Indiana is suing his school, saying their policy of respecting the names and pronouns of #trans youth violates his religious beliefs. https://t.co/T7uoPPPI6Z
— Ryan Thoreson (@ryanthoreson) June 6, 2018