Teachers in a Florida school district will undergo training after an award-winning teacher refused to comply with a transgender student’s demand, Florida TV station WTLV reported.
WTLV reported that it obtained copies of emails between a transgender student at Sandalwood High School in the Duval County Public School system and school officials.
The biologically male student demanded to be referred to as female, but math teacher Thomas Caggiano refused to do so.
“I will NOT refer to you with female pronouns,” Caggiano wrote. “If this is not acceptable for you, change classes.”
Caggiano said he was willing to use a name the student preferred, but would not use different pronouns.
“I will call you by any reasonable name you like,” he said. “But the pronouns are not a negotiable thing for me.”
Caggiano, a Navy veteran, is a past recipient of a Governor’s Shine Award from Gov. Rick Scott in recognition of his “service to our country and [his] contributions to Florida’s students.”
The student received a very different reply after contacting Sandalwood Principal Saryn Hatcher.
“Thank you for the feedback. Please know that Sandalwood is a child-friendly school. Your wishes will be honored. I will handle this and get back with you,” Hatcher wrote.
Hatcher did not make any public comment on the issue.
Laureen Ricks, a spokeswoman for Duval County Public Schools, said the situation has “allowed for constructive dialogue” and that the school’s staff will go through training, according to WTLV.
“In regards to this incident — It was unfortunate that it happened and is not consistent with our expectations,” she 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,” she wrote.
A high school teacher in Jacksonville, Florida, faced criticism and disciplinary action because a transgender student asked him to refer to the student by female pronouns, although the student was born male. The teacher refused. https://t.co/2ULsi14OKQ
— The Daily Signal (@DailySignal) September 7, 2019
Ricks says the teacher was counseled and the issue was put in the lap of the district’s Office of Equity and Inclusion/Professional Standards.
The school district’s policy for transgender students says they should be addressed by their chosen name or gender pronoun as well as use the locker room of their choice and play on sports teams that align with their gender identity.
Caggiano has not commented about the situation.