Teacher Says He Was Forced To Quit Over School's Transgender Student Policy

Former Indiana orchestra teacher John Kluge says addressing trans students by their preferred names is a "dangerous" violation of his religious beliefs.

An Indiana teacher says he was forced to resign after he refused to comply with the school district’s policy of addressing transgender students by their preferred names.

John Kluge, the former orchestra teacher at Brownsburg High School in Brownsburg, Indiana, argued that the policy ― which also requires teachers to refer to students using the pronouns which best align with their gender identity ― goes against his religious beliefs and violates the First Amendment. 

“I’m being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that’s a dangerous lifestyle,” the teacher, who has been with the Brownsburg School District for four years, 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.”

A Brownsburg Community Schools spokeswoman declined to comment on Kluge’s claims, but told HuffPost: “This teacher voluntarily submitted his resignation prior to the end of the school year. The resignation was accepted by the administration.” She added that the school district “complies with all state and federal laws.” 

The dispute between Kluge and his employers reportedly began at the start of 2018, soon after teachers received an 11-page document outlining the school district’s transgender student policy. 

A copy of what’s purported to be the Jan. 3 document on the Indiana Family Institute’s website states that the Brownsburg School District “allows name changes with a letter from the student’s parent(s) and a letter from a health care professional.” The district permits trans students to “use the restroom of their choice.” 

Kluge, 28, told the Indianapolis Star that he and school administrators initially reached a compromise that would permit him to refer to all students by their last names. A few months ago, however, he said he was told he would no longer be allowed to do that.

After what Kluge described as a “very threatening and bullying type of meeting,” he said district officials told him he would be terminated if he didn’t comply with the school’s transgender student policy. Though he submitted what ABC 6 described as “a conditional resignation letter with a tentative date,” he said he asked to withdraw it May 25, four days before the end of the school year.

Instead, Kluge said he found himself locked out of his school’s email system, and was informed by colleagues that a listing for his position had been posted. He said he plans to appeal to keep his job at a June 11 school board meeting.  

“They’re acting as if I have [resigned], even though I’m pleading, ‘No,’” Kluge told USA Today. “I’m not dead yet. I still want to work here.”