BROWNSBURG, Ind. – A central Indiana teacher says a school district forced him to resign following a disagreement over a policy that calls for teachers to address transgender students by their preferred name rather than their birth name.
Former Brownsburg High School orchestra teacher John Kluge said the Brownsburg Community Schools policy goes against his religious beliefs and violates his constitutional rights, the Indianapolis Star reported .
"I'm being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that's a dangerous lifestyle," the 28-year-old 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."
Students must have written consent from a parent and doctor to request the name change, according to district documents.
LGBTQ community advocates say the practice is a sign of respect and isn't about religion or politics.
"This is not a request for advocacy," said Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, a national nonprofit focused on suicide prevention in LGBTQ youth. "This is a request for respect."
Kluge said he reached a compromise with school administration that allowed him to refer to all students by their last name this past school year. He said administrators informed him a few months ago that he would no longer be allowed to do that.
Kluge resigned before the end of the school year, according to a district representative. Kluge said he submitted a tentative resignation letter because officials threatened to fire him and that he had requested to withdraw the letter.
"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."
Kluge plans to appeal to the school board to get his job back. He had worked in the district for four years.
District officials declined to comment on the policy.