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.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.