Teacher Rejects Transgender Student's Chosen Pronouns: 'If This Isn't Acceptable, Change Classes'

Teacher Rejects Transgender Student's Chosen Pronouns: 'If This Isn't Acceptable, Change Classes'

Thomas Caggiano of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville was fixed on the stance that he would not refer to a transgender student by the pronoun she desired to be called.

Gender neutrality is a concept that has become much more mainstream over the last decade, thanks to the global rise of LGBTQ+ and feminist movements. 

The subject has definitely attracted a lot of controversy as more and more institutions in the West seek to implement gender-neutral policies into their curriculum. An incident in Florida, however, has surfaced, where First Coast News reported that a school teacher from Jacksonville refused a transgender student's request to use the student's desired pronouns when referring to her. 



Thomas Caggiano of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville wrote in an email obtained by First Coast News that "I will NOT refer to you with female pronouns, If this is not acceptable for you, change classes." Caggiano is a math teacher at the school. "I will call you by any reasonable name you like," he continued, "but the pronouns are not a negotiable thing for me."

When it comes to gender-neutral pronouns, use of a singular 'they', 'their' and 'them' is the most common; and ze, sie, hir, co, and ey are used as well. Some others prefer the conventional gender-specific pronouns 'her' or 'him', prefer to be referred to alternately as 'he' and 'she', while others prefer to use only their name and not use pronouns at all.



Following the incident, the student notified the principal of the school, Dr. Saryn Hatcher who promised to "handle" the situation.  "Thank you for the feedback," Hatcher wrote in an email to the student. "Please know that Sandalwood is a child-friendly school. Your wishes will be honored. I will handle this and get back with you."



A spokesperson for Duval County Public Schools(DCPS) called the incident regrettable and said staff would be undergoing additional training to ensure an inclusive environment at school. 

"In regards to this incident – It was unfortunate that it happened and is not consistent with our expectations," spokesperson Laureen Ricks wrote in an email. "However, it has served as a teachable moment and allowed for constructive dialogue among our school community. As [Superintendent] Dr. [Diana] Greene has shared, 'We all have an experience of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and we all deserve to feel comfortable expressing those identities.'"



Ricks also said that Caggiano has been counseled regarding this incident, but it was not immediately clear if he would face any disciplinary action. Duval County Public School has also remarked that Caggiano has been called out by several commenters on Twitter in the past, including former DCPS students who cite their own experience with intolerance. 



A 2017-18 Gallup poll concluded that 4.5% of adult Americans identified as LGBT with 5.1% of women identifying as LGBT, compared with 3.9% of men. A different survey in 2016, from the Williams Institute, estimated that 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as transgender. 



An important legal victory for transgender people occurred on April 2016, when the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of transgender male student Gavin Grimm, which marked the first ruling by an appeals court to find that transgender students are protected under federal laws that ban sex-based discrimination.


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