A teacher at Brownsburg High School in Indiana has claimed he was forced to resign from his job due to a name policy it has in place regarding transgender students.
The local district requires the school’s employees to call transgender students by their preferred names rather than the ones they were given at birth.
But John Kluge, a former orchestra tutor, said that having to abide by the policy violates his First Amendment Rights as it goes against his religious beliefs.
“I’m being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that’s a dangerous lifestyle,” the 28-year-old explained to The Indianapolis Star.
“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.”
Kluge that he felt uncomfortable conforming to the policy because, in his opinion, it would appear as if he was endorsing said student identifying as transgender.
“I really do care for all of my students,” he added. “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.”
While he doesn’t necessarily agree with some of his student’s lifestyle decisions, Kluge is quick to argue that he does respect them and tried to “present an environment where [he] wasn’t going to push one way or the other” by calling all of his students by their last names.
However, just a few months ago, he was told that he would no longer be allowed to call students by their last names and would therefore have to implement the policy in his classrooms.
Kluge went on to say that he is now fighting for his job after his reluctance saw the district threatening to fire him, just three weeks before the school year came to a close and issues with a resignation letter.
He had originally filed the letter with instructions for it to be submitted on May 29, after the school year ended.
However, when he had a change of heart and tried to withdraw the resignation on May 25, he was informed it had already been processed and he discovered that he had been locked out of the district’s email system.
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His colleagues also informed him that the school had already began looking for a new orchestra teacher.
“They’re acting as if I have (resigned), even though I’m pleading, ‘no,'” Kluge said. “I’m not dead yet. I still want to work here.”
Kluge isn’t the only one who disagrees with the way Brownsburg High School and its district has treated him.
The Indiana Family Institute, a non-profit organisation that champions religious freedom and openly opposes many LGBT rights, said: “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.”
The group has launched a letter-writing campaign in order to reinstate Kluge as Brownsburg’s orchestra teacher. It is also encouraging his supporters to email every member of the school’s board to ask them to save his job.
Similarly, Hope Community Church pastor Jim Bohrer – whose daughter is a student of Kluge’s – describes him as a well-liked teacher who “treats them all the same” and “cares deeply” about the education he provides.
“This is not an issue of John excluding anyone. This is purely the administration trying to get rid of John for his convictions.”
Bohrer also claimed that certain community members are concerned about transgender students using the bathroom other than the one corresponding to their sex at birth. “Parents in church have shared concerns about safety issues,” he explained.
On the flip side, Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, urges that “this is not a request for advocacy. This is a request for respect.”