Indiana high school teacher claims he was forced to resign because of transgender policy

A central Indiana high school teacher is trying to get his job back after he claims the school district forced him to resign for violating its transgender student policy.

John Kluge, a former Brownsburg High School orchestra teacher, said he submitted a tentative resignation letter because he was threatened with job termination for not falling in line with the school district’s new policy on how teachers should address students who identify as transgender.

He told the Indianapolis Star that he did not want to violate his conscience by calling transgender students by their preferred name, rather than those given at birth.

“I’m being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that’s a dangerous lifestyle,” the 28-year-old teacher 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.”

Kluge, who has taught at the school for four years, said the school’s new policy violates his First Amendment rights.

The new school policy, which will be implemented next school year, states that students must have written consent from a parent and doctor to request the name change. The school’s policy allowed for teachers to call students by their last names this year, but starting next year, teachers will be required to call students by the preferred name and pronouns listed in the school’s system.

“When you work in a public school, you sign up to follow the law and the policies/practices of that organization and that might mean following practices that are different than your beliefs,” the policy said.

A Brownsburg Community School Corporation representative alleged that Kluge voluntarily submitted his resignation before the end of the school year, but Kluge said he submitted a tentative resignation letter because he was threatened with job termination, adding he requested to withdraw the letter.

Kluge said he still wants to work at the school and is “pleading” to come back.

The Indiana Family Institute, a conservative education and research organization, started a letter-writing campaign to encourage the school to bring Kluge back and “allow parents to have a voice in shaping the environment in which their children are educated.”

But LGBTQ advocates said the school’s policy is a show of respect not about politics or religion.

“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 LGBTQ student advocacy organization GLSEN, told Indy Star. "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.”

Kluge plans to make an appeal to get his job back at the school board meeting on Monday.

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