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Trans Teachers Aren’t a Distraction, but Transphobia Is

Trans Teachers Aren’t a Distraction, but Transphobia Is

A teacher from one Texas school was recently suspended for being a “distraction.” Her offense? Teaching while trans.

Laura Jane Klug, 52, worked as a substitute teacher at Lumberton Intermediate School until Tuesday April 8 when, she claims, she was contacted by Lumberton Independent School District’s Human Resources and Superintendent John Valastro who told her she was now suspended while the school board considers her position.

Apparently, a parent of a child Klug teaches had complained that it wasn’t right to have a transgender teacher near children because it might affect the kids in her care. In what way the parent hasn’t said but the inference seems clear: he’s worried that being trans might catch. Roger Beard, the parent in question, is quoted by KBMT as saying:

“If it does affect my child and his ability to learn or if it causes questions that I don’t feel are appropriate then undoubtedly there’s an issue with having somebody transgender, transsexual or transvestite, to be teaching that age group.”

Beard goes on to say he doesn’t have a problem with transgender people — though, presumably, so long as they’re not anywhere near his children.

Klug maintains that she has been only professional while in school and that she has never discussed her gender identity while working as a teacher at the school, meaning that the small handful of people who have complained found out about her identity on their own and have then moved to unseat her.

It is possible that, just as other people have done in order to write sometimes rather vile and inaccurate commentary about this story, a parent may have looked up Klug’s Facebook profile in which she is obviously open about her having been sex assigned male at birth.

Not all of the parents at the school are calling for Klug’s suspension, however. “My son knows who he [my son] is and I don’t think any outside influence is†going to change that,” Jammie Marcantel, a parent of a child in Kulg’s class,†is quoted as saying. “I donít worry about my son.”

Klug is also supported by local LGBT rights groups, and with good reason. On the basis of the information we have been given, the Lumberton school district appears, at the very least, to have strayed dangerously close to breaking federal employment law.

While it is true that Texas does not enumerate gender identity and therefore does not offer Klug any legal remedy there and,†because she is a substitute teacher, the school doesn’t actually need to fire Klug in order to remove her from the classroom, the EEOC has made it abundantly clear that Title VII, a provision of the federal Civil Rights Act that covers sex discrimination, also covers gender identity and expression. Since that announcement in April of 2012, that provision has successfully been invoked in a number of cases.

Fortunately, reports say that after considering the issue on Thursday when, during an open school board meeting, a number of Klug’s supporters turned up to voice their protest at her being suspended, the board has decided to reinstate Klug.

While at the time of writing the school board has not yet publicly confirmed Klug’s reinstatement, Klug told Lone Star Q that: “I do feel relieved in the fact that I have been reinstated.” She will not be applying to fill a slot at the school in the immediate future, but hopes to return once things have settled down. “Hopefully this is going to be a really good learning moment for everybody involved. It’s certainly an opportunity for principals to address the issue of people who are gender-nonconforming. Also, it might encourage somebody who is questioning their gender to maybe come forward.”

Klug appears to have been graceful and entirely measured in her response, with an outcome that is possibly the best that she could have hoped for under the circumstances. This story, though, betrays a very particular kind of discrimination: the kind that desperately wants to pretend it isn’t discrimination at all. The insidious notion that having a teacher like Ms. Klug would be a “distraction” for children is ironic. The only distraction here was the prejudice those complaining parents showed, which thankfully then made this story a national one. And really, what is it the parents are afraid of?

I’d argue it’s one simple lesson: that in doing her job, and by all accounts doing it very well, Ms. Klug would teach children that she is a teacher like any other. A person, like any other, deserving the same rights and respect. That’s a lesson that transphobes really fear their children learning.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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76 comments

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10:19AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

What? Are the children learning? Children learning should be the question.

5:55AM PDT on Apr 20, 2014

Freddy and Jacob- Freddy especially, this time. When the "opinion" of an individual is used to destroy the life of somebody who has NEVER done you or anyone else any harm, then no, the individual is NOT entitled to the mutual respect of others. Respect works both ways. Yes, Mr. Beard has a right to his opinion and the right to express it, which he did. In turn, it ALMOST ruined another person's life. Until he made a stink about it, nobody knew or cared about Ms. Klug and her "secret". Thank GOD that the school board and other voices in the town overcame this idiot's opinion and attempt to undermine this lady's rights, job and well-being. If Mr. Beard was so afraid for his child's safety, he could have simply removed the kid from that school or do what lots of parents do- home school. THAT is a solution. Exposing, embarrassing, humiliating and publicly harassing this poor woman is a crime and a sin and should be publicly dealt with, as well. That is what we are doing to Mr. Beard right now. Unfortunately, nothing we say here in these posts will do to him what he has already done to Laura Klug. I hope he is pointed and laughed at everywhere he goes from now on. His "concern" was nothing more than an excuse to put his own stupidity on parade. He is now getting only a portion of what he deserves.

3:06PM PDT on Apr 19, 2014

It's the parents that have the problem, obviously...As any (respectable) psychologist will tell you, the younger the child, the easier it is to deal with the idea of the Transgender transition. They haven't had the gender binary concept beaten into them yet like adults have. In reality, the children probably wouldn't have even cared if the transphobic parents didn't flip out about it. Now the kids do see it as an issue and might follow their parent's lead. Kind of like how a racist parent begets a racist child.
Way to be good role models parents..

8:59AM PDT on Apr 19, 2014

They don't have problems with trans people, just not around their kid. So either A) they are a liar and do have problems B) they are ignorant and think that you can "catch" being trans, like you would the flu. C) They don't realize that their kid probably didn't even realize the teacher was trans.

8:57AM PDT on Apr 19, 2014

Lol sure.

1:35AM PDT on Apr 18, 2014

Strange!

12:38AM PDT on Apr 18, 2014

respectfully; I have a hard time supporting any overly aggressive and sensitive cause.
too much

5:53PM PDT on Apr 17, 2014

I love that children are becoming more accepting of "different" people, homosexuals, lesbians and trans, however its disappointing to see parents pulling them up and making huge deals out of nothing and planting seeds of hate and intolerance. I commend the school for hiring her in the first place, however i also understand the difficult situation they got put into by the parents causing irrational issues. All Kudos for Ms. Klug, your composure in what would of been an extremely hurtful circumstance is commendable.

3:51PM PDT on Apr 16, 2014

Ms. Klug deserves an "A" for displaying "grace under pressure".

2:40PM PDT on Apr 16, 2014

i see more parents who should not be role models for their own kids, but what course does a teacher have?

It takes a village to raise an idiot,or bigot, and we seem to have a case here where the parent is all that is needed to create a cretin. It would be nice if this were an isolated incidence. Alas......

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