‘This Isn’t Just About a Pronoun.’ Teachers and Trans Students Are Clashing Over Whose Rights Come First

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BY KATIE REILLY  NOVEMBER 15, 2019

Aidyn Sucec remembers how much better he felt toward the end of eighth grade when, after years of struggling with his identity, he told his family he was transgender. It was the spring of 2017, and Aidyn’s anxiety and depression began to lift as people embraced the teenager as “him.”

“My family and friends began to recognize me as who I am,” Aidyn, who’s now 16, said in court documents.

Before Aidyn, who was designated female at birth, started at Brownsburg High School in Brownsburg, Indiana that fall, his mother, Laura Sucec, worked with school officials to make sure his new name and gender would be logged into Brownsburg’s database. She wanted to be sure teachers knew him as Aidyn and didn’t use his former name—his “dead name”—when addressing him.

The school was quick to accommodate Aidyn, and with input from Sucec and other parents, it soon allowed all trans students to use bathrooms, names and pronouns aligned with their gender identity. But that change, which was meant to protect the students, was a problem for Aidyn’s orchestra teacher, John Kluge. Kluge, 29, believes “it is sinful to promote transgender behavior,” according to a federal lawsuit he filed in June that accuses the Brownsburg Community School Corporation (BCSC) of forcing him to resign because of his beliefs. The BCSC policies do not specifically mention bathroom use or names for trans students, but Sucec and Kluge say those changes were made during the summer of 2017.

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