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Florida teacher refuses to use transgender student’s pronouns, tells her to ‘change class’

Vic Parsons August 22, 2019
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Trans march in Ontario, Canada, 2019. (Anatoliy Cherkasov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty)

A Florida teacher’s refusal to use a transgender student’s pronouns has caused the whole school staff to undergo additional inclusivity training.

Thomas Caggiano, a maths teacher at Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida, wrote in an email that he would not use female pronouns for a trans student, according to First Coast News.

“I will NOT refer to you with female pronouns,” Caggiano wrote. “If this is not acceptable for you, change classes.”

Caggiano then told the student: “I will call you by any reasonable name you like, but the pronouns are not a negotiable thing for me.”

But when the student notified the headteacher, she received a positive response.

“Thank you for the feedback,” Saryn Hatcher, the school’s head, replied in an email. “Please know that Sandalwood is a child-friendly school. Your wishes will be honoured. I will handle this and get back with you.”

Caggiano was apparently given Florida governor Rick Scott’s Shine Award in recognition of his “service to our country and [his] contributions to Florida’s students, according to First Coast News.

Duval County Public Schools, the schools district board, said the incident was “unfortunate” and “not consistent with our expectations”.

“It has served as a teachable moment and allowed for constructive dialogue among our school community. As [Superintendent] Dr. [Diana] Greene has shared, ‘We all have an experience of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and we all deserve to feel comfortable expressing those identities,'” said district spokesperson Laureen Ricks.

Ricks also told First Coast News that the matter has been referred to the district’s Office of Equity and Inclusion/Professional Standards, which can conduct an investigation.

District policy for Duval County is that students should be addressed by the names and pronouns they are comfortable with, and be permitted to wear clothing that reflects their gender identity.

Students should also play on sports teams, and use bathrooms/locker rooms, which correspond to their gender identity.

More: Duval County Public Schools, Rick Scott

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