June 18, 2019

A music teacher filed a suit in federal court in Indiana after disagreeing with a school district policy requiring teachers to call transgender students by their preferred names rather than their birth names. The teacher, John Kluge, claims the school policy conflicted with his Christian beliefs and alleges he was forced to resign.

Kluge alleges the Brownsburg Community School Corporation (BCSC) and its administrators violated his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and free exercise of religion, retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights, and deprived him of due process and equal protection of law.

“By placing a written warning in his personnel file for allegedly violating their transgender policies and practices, and terminating Kluge because he refused to use transgender names, defendants have punished Kluge for engaging in expression the First Amendment protects,” the complaint says.

In early 2017, BCSC enacted a policy allowing transgendered students to use the bathroom of their choice and instructed teachers to use transgendered students’ preferred names. Kluge objected due to his religious beliefs, and the district granted him an accommodation whereby he could call all students by their last names.

On February 2018, BCSC rescinded Kluge’s accommodation after students complained, telling him he had to either use student’s chosen first names or resign or get fired.

In May 2018, Kluge filed his resignation, but quickly tried to rescind it, he claims. The school, however, ignored his request and immediately locked him out of the building and the school’s intranet, the suit alleges.

Kluge is seeking full back pay and the value of his benefits, in addition to compensatory and punitive damages.

A school district spokeswoman declined to comment on pending litigation, the AP reports.

Associated Press Indy Star Complaint