Teacher says he was forced to resign because he wouldn't call trans students by preferred name

BROWNSBURG, Ind. — The former orchestra teacher at Brownsburg High School says he was forced to resign because he refused to follow a policy that requires teachers to call transgender students by their preferred name instead of their birth name. 

John Kluge was an orchestra teacher at Brownsburg High School for four years.

He says the school administration sent an email at the beginning of the year instructing teachers to refer to transgender students by their preferred names as reflected in the school's database. 

But Kluge didn't agree with the instruction and wanted to call those students by their last name instead. 

He says the school gave him three options: follow policy, resign or be fired. 

"I feel the compelled speech of forcing a teacher to take a side on this very highly controversial topic is a violation of our First Amendment rights," Kluge said. 

Kluge says he submitted a conditional resignation letter with a tentative date because he felt threatened, but he withdrew that resignation before the May 29 deadline. 

"It was my understanding that I would be suspended pending termination May 1," Kluge said. "It was a very threatening and bullying type of meeting that I had with them."

Dr. Jim Bohrer, a local pastor and parent of a Brownsburg student said Kluge's position was "targeted."

"I'm very disappointed," he said. "I'm very saddened. At what point do we go from education, where kids are exposed to different thoughts and different ideas and have to deal with them? Life is tough. It is difficult."

Chris Paulsen, Executive Director of the LGBTQ organization Indiana Youth Group says they disagree. 

"Showing a lack of respect for transgender youth is what drives up the suicide rates of transgender youth in Indiana," Paulsen said. "Indiana leads the nation in youth that consider suicide and things like that contribute to that."

According to the Brownsburg Community School Corporation, a student can only get their name changed in PowerSchool with a letter from their parent(s) and a health care professional. 

Kluge released the following statement:

“I enjoy being the orchestra teacher at Brownsburg. I love serving the kids in the community and would like to continue teaching at Brownsburg. 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. Again I appreciate teaching at Brownsburg High School and hope the board will reconsider terminating me.”

 

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