Metro Weekly

Indiana teacher who refused to use trans students’ chosen names fails to have his resignation rescinded

The teacher said he was forced to resign after saying he was uncomfortable with the district's policy on chosen names

Trans Pride Flag — Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office / Flickr

An Indiana teacher who said that calling transgender students by their chosen name was a violation of his religious beliefs has tried and failed to have his resignation rescinded.

John Kulge had previously said that calling trans students by their chosen name would suggest he supported their gender identity, which he described as a “dangerous lifestyle” in an interview with Indystar.

Kluge, the former orchestra teacher at Brownsburg High School, broke down into tears when he heard the school board’s decision to accept his resignation.

Kluge had circumvented the school’s policy requiring him to respect trans students’ chosen names by using students’ surnames. However, he was told that he wouldn’t be allowed to continue to do so in the upcoming school year. When he refused to adhere to the policy, Kluge said the district forced him to resign.

Kluge submitted his letter of resignation in May, but later tried to withdraw it. By that time, it had already been accepted by the board.

Speaking to school officials on Monday night, Kluge said that he should be able to appeal his resignation.

“I wanted to be able to teach my subject matter with a clean conscience,” he said prior to the ruling. “You’ve approved my resignation without me being able to appeal my resignation.”

In an emotionally charged hearing, a number of people supported Kluge, praising his work ad a teacher and saying there was a lack of parent involvement when the transgender name policy was implemented.

However, many students and parents supported his resignation, criticizing his use of religion to justify denying the students’ right to their name.

Laura Sucec said at the meeting that her son dropped out of orchestra because his experience with Kluge was so negative.

“By refusing to call my child by his name because of his beliefs,” she said, according to video from WRTV, “he is saying that he knows better what is right for my child than I do.”

Aidyn Sucec added that Kluge choosing to call students by their last names denied them respect and personhood.

“I think that Mr. Kluge’s religious beliefs have absolutely no place in a public high school,” he said. “I think that everybody advocating in support for Kluge needs to think about what it is like to be a transgender person and what it is like to live your life knowing that there are people who would say that you are not an actual human being and actively disrespect you.”

Kluge is now seeking legal advice to appeal the decision, according to NBC News.

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!