Ind. teacher says using trans students’ preferred names violate ‘religious beliefs’

John Kluge (photo courtesy of indystar.com)

INDIANAPOLIS — A teacher in suburban Indianapolis is saying the school district forced him to resign for refusing to us transgender students’ preferred names.

The school district requires teachers to use trans students’ preferred names, instead of those given at birth. John Kluge, the former orchestra teacher at Brownsburg High School near Indianapolis, told the Indianapolis Star that the policy goes against his religious beliefs and violates his First Amendment rights.

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

Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, told the newspaper the policy isn’t advocacy, but basic respect. The Star reported that officials with Brownsburg Community Schools have declined to comment publicly.

From the Star:

Kluge, 28, said he only submitted a tentative letter of resignation because the district threatened to fire him with three weeks remaining in the school year. Instead, Kluge handed in a letter of resignation with instructions to not submit the letter until May 29, after the school year ended. On May 25, the last student day at Brownsburg Schools, Kluge said he asked to withdraw the letter.

Instead, Kluge said, he was locked out of the district’s email system later that day. Other teachers then told him the district sent out a job posting for a high school orchestra teacher. He had been with the district for four years.

“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.”

The Indiana Family Institute, a conservative nonprofit that promotes religious liberty and opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, has started a letter writing campaign to support Kluge. The group is urging people to email every member of the Brownsburg school board and ask them to save Kluge’s job.

Kluge told the newspaper that using a student’s preferred name means he agrees with a student’s decision to identify as transgender.

“I really do care for all of my students,” he said, according to the Star, “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.”

Kluge will reportedly appeal to the school board to keep his job at the next board meeting.

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