BROWNSBURG, Ind. — Lambda Legal and Indiana Youth Group (IYG), an LGBTQ youth organization, have joined a lawsuit to protect transgender students at Brownsburg Community School Corporation (BCSC), just west of Indianapolis.
In a press release, Lambda Legal said the organization want to protect students from attack by a teacher who sued the school district after officials asked him to refer students by their accurate and full names. Their names were recorded by the district and requested by the students’ parents.
IYG is part of the suit in its capacity as the managing organization of the Indiana GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) Network, of which the Brownsburg High School GSA is a member.
“Transgender students deserve to be treated with dignity and respect by their teachers and enjoy a safe learning environment, just like anyone else,” said Lambda Legal Counsel and Students’ Rights Strategist, Paul Castillo. “For transgender students, that means affirming their gender identities by using the names and pronouns that are authentic to them. Educators occupy an important place in the lives of all students, so when they devalue or render invisible their students’ gender identities, it signals to the rest of the student body that it’s ok to bully and disrespect their transgender peers.”
Starting in 2017, the district required teachers to students using the names recorded in the school’s “Power School” database, which allows parents of transgender students to enter a name for their child that is consistent with their gender identity. Teacher John Kluge, Lambda Legal said, claimed “religious objection” and would only refer to students by their last names. Kluge resigned after complaints then sued BCSC to get his job back and get an injunction against the policy.
“It is IYG’s mission to ensure that all LGBTQ young people in Indiana are seen, respected, and safe,” said Chris Paulsen, chief executive officer of IYG. “Dismissing a transgender person’s identity has deeply harmful and potentially dangerous effects. Young people whose gender identities are not respected have increased rates of depression and suicide. However, when they are supported by their teachers and are allowed to be their true selves, they thrive, and that is something that all young people deserve.”
“My son gets to decide who he is, not his teacher,” said Laura Sucec, mother of a former student of Kluge who spoke out about the teacher’s disrespect toward transgender students. “I am frustrated and hurt that Mr. Kluge feels that he can deride and humiliate my son for his identity, depriving him of his dignity and humanity in front of his peers. My son and all transgender people deserve to be supported, not rejected or dismissed.”
The case is Kluge v. Brownsburg Community School Corporation.