Evangelist Franklin Graham spoke out against an Oregon school district's recent decision to strike a settlement with a transgender teacher — an agreement that included a $60,000 payout for emotional damages and other related expenses, and a pledge to enact transgender employee guidelines.
Graham specifically took aim at an email sent by Hall Elementary School Principal Heidi Lasher that reportedly implored teachers who work with Leo Soell — the transgender fifth-grade teacher at the center of the dispute — to use the "correct name and pronouns" when addressing transgendered individuals.
"[The district's anti-bullying] policies require that all staff address transgender or gender non-conforming employees with their correct name and pronouns," Lasher wrote, according to the Oregonian. "If you are found to be in violation of these policies, you will be subject to discipline up to and including dismissal."
Graham said that the policy — one that resulted from a complaint waged by Soell, who was born as a woman but who does not embrace a male or female label — is entirely inappropriate.
"That’s incredible!" he wrote on his Facebook page, speaking of Lasher's email. "Use 'correct' pronouns? Doesn’t a person’s DNA or birth certificate count for anything? Shouldn’t fact override fantasy?"
Graham continued, "God created people male and female."
The evangelist's comments came after the Gresham-Barlow School District agreed to pay Soell $60,000 for emotional damages after the teacher — who prefers to go by the pronoun "they" rather than she or he — claimed to be the victim of harassment after surviving breast cancer, having reconstruction surgery to have a more male-appearing chest and making the aforementioned gender identity issues public.
Soell claimed to have been repeatedly called "she," Miss Soell or "lady" despite not wishing to align with either gender. Additionally, Soell said that someone put Vaseline on classroom cabinets, another staffer yelled insults and numerous teachers tried to prevent the teacher from using the sole gender-neutral bathroom inside of the school, the Oregonian reported.
Following complaints from Soell and the union last year, an agreement was forged to allow the teacher to be called "they" at school rather than he or she, but alleged harassment continued. After the district said that a review yielded no proof of such acts, Soell retained an attorney.
In the end, the district settled, with Hall Elementary converting all staff bathrooms to be gender-neutral, and with the district paying $60,000 to Soell to cover emotional distress, attorneys fees and health expenses that were previously rejected by the district's health insurance company.
Another provision in the agreement is that official teacher guidelines will be drafted by August to help deal with issues pertaining to transgender employees. Read more about the story here.
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