Teacher Says He was Forced Out Over Stance on Transgender Students


An Indiana high school teacher says he was forced out due to a district policy that requires teachers to call students by their chosen names rather than the ones that were given to them at birth.

According to the Indianapolis Star, John Kluge was the former orchestra teacher at Brownsburg High School in Brownsburg, Indiana. He says the district’s new policy led him to sign a tentative resignation letter.

However, the 28-year-old teacher now wants his job back, saying that the school has violated his First Amendment rights by making him take part in something he doesn’t believe in.

“I’m being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that’s a dangerous lifestyle,” Kluge 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.”

A district representative said that the teacher had already submitted his resignation letter and it had been accepted by the district.

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However, Kluge said he only submitted the letter tentatively because the district said he would fire him three weeks before the school year ended. He gave instructions to submit the letter on May 29 and on May 25, the last day of school, he asked for the letter to be withdrawn. He was locked out of the school’s email system later that day.

Other teachers later informed him that district officials had sent out a job posting for a new orchestra teacher, ostensibly to replace Kluge, who had been with the school for four years.

While the policy was not new, Kluge says that he reached an agreement with the school district under which he would be able to call the students by their last names. He says that a month ago, he was told — without explanation — that agreement would be terminated and he would have to call students by their chosen names.

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“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.”

“I really do care for all of my students,” he 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.”

An internal document hosted by conservative nonprofit Indiana Family Institute — which is supporting Kluge in part by urging a letter-writing campaign to the school district — posted a district document online that explained the procedure for transgender students to register a name change.

Once the name change was registered in the district’s database of students, called PowerSchool, teachers were formally expected to follow that name with very few exceptions.

“We expect staff to call students by the name in PowerSchool,” the document read. “It is fine for teachers to call students by a commonly accepted nickname — Kim or Kimmy for Kimberly, Alex or Xander for Alexander, etc.”

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“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,” a form letter from the Indiana Family Institute reads.

You may not be surprised that LGBT activists feel that stifling teachers’ free speech rights in favor of the policy is pretty much OK.

“Using a trans student’s chosen name is an invaluable support. Educators need to lead by example with respect for students’ identities, names, and pronouns,” Becca Mui, education manager at GLSEN, an LGBT advocacy group, said. “If John Kluge couldn’t model this respect for his students, he wasn’t creating a classroom environment where all of his students could thrive.”

This is the invariable problem: It’s only the rights of the trans individual that are being considered here. There are people who have legitimate medical, scientific and religious reasons to believe that transgenderism is not necessarily the best outcome for those suffering from gender dysphoria. Those qualms, despite how some people like to represent them, are not illegitimate. Especially on the religious side, where do they fit into this?

You can’t say that this is just caring after students, after all; Brownsburg High School has already seen one of its students pulled out because of the bathroom policy and the fact that they felt unsafe using the bathroom with a transgender individual. The school’s response, if they were to give one, would likely be along the lines that this should have been a teaching experience for the other student. But does that teaching experience translate over to the other side of the ledger? Would they say that transgender students might benefit from the teaching experience that not everyone particularly agrees with their views on transgenderism?

Especially when those views come from a place of religious belief, you would think they would be given more leeway by the school. Instead, no.

As for now, Kluge is looking to get his job back at the next school board meeting, which happens Monday. There’s no word yet on whether or not he’ll seek legal action after this.

“I love serving the kids in the community and would like to continue teaching at Brownsburg,” he said in a statement, according to Fox News.

“It’s unfortunate that the administration is not letting me come back and that they are unwilling to continue a reasonable accommodation that most people consider to be very common-sense.”

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture