In the name of inclusion, a central Indiana school district has alienated parents and ousted a popular high school orchestra teacher in a dispute over transgenderism. Without notice and before almost 300 residents, the Brownsburg Community School Corporation announced Monday night it had accepted John Kluge’s letter of resignation—a document Kluge said he submitted under duress.
A policy the district adopted in 2017 requires teachers and students to use the preferred name and pronoun of gender dysphoric students but maintains the biological sex as male or female in official school records. Teachers who don’t comply with the pronoun requirement face termination or forced resignation, according to Kluge, who conferred late Monday with his attorneys about his legal and employment options.
Kluge’s Christian faith and concern for transgender students runs afoul of the policy that also allows transgender students to use the private restroom and changing facilities of their choice. And while the policy ostensibly creates “an environment which is accepting of all students,” employees and students who disagree with it face consequences depending on the frequency and “intent” when “calling the student the wrong name/pronoun,” according to the policy.
Some parents addressing the school board Monday fumed about being kept in the dark about the policy, Kevin Green, one of Kluge’s attorneys, told me. Of the 44 people signed up to speak during Monday’s board meeting, 27 supported Kluge, who has taught orchestra at Brownsburg High School for four years. The 17 who spoke against Kluge “chafed against his worldview,” not his job performance, Green noted.
Kluge addressed the board but only after members made a show of accepting his resignation, which he had intended to rescind.
The conflict started last fall, when Brownsburg High School Principal Bret Daghe and Superintendent Jim Snapp made Kluge’s employment options clear: Comply with the policy, resign, or be terminated, Kluge told me.
Days after that discussion, Kluge proposed, and administrators accepted, an accommodation of his own: He would call all students by their last names, just like a coach, to avoid violating his conscience or singling out transgender students.
The agreement was short-lived.
By January, administrators reapplied pressure for Kluge to resign or face termination for refusing to comply with the “inclusive” policy. According to Kluge, Daghe and the district’s human resource director, Jodi Gordon, told him resignation meant he would be paid through the summer. Termination meant losing that pay.
Kluge, a 28-year-old husband and father of one, with another baby on the way, believed he had no choice but to write the letter. Assurances from Gordon that she would not officially submit the letter until May 29 gave Kluge time to consider his options. But on May 25 he discovered he was out of a job.
Administrators insisted Kluge “voluntarily submitted his resignation,” which they accepted, district spokeswoman Vicki Murphy told me. The district “complies with all state and federal laws,” she said, but she declined to cite the laws or answer more questions.
Freshman state Sen. John Crane, who represents the Brownsburg area just west of Indianapolis, said he didn’t know of any Indiana law that requires school districts to implement transgender student accommodation policies. But the policy requiring Kluge to speak against his conscience violates state and federal law, Crane said.
Kluge insists transgenderism is “a dangerous trend” he will not affirm because it “reinforces the confusion that ultimately leads to desperation, resulting in these suicides. I do not wish to take part in this dangerous trend. These students are discontent with their bodies. Sterilizing and mutilating themselves will not produce contentment.”