A Florida teacher refused a transgender student's request to use the student's desired pronouns — and now the whole staff will undergo additional training to ensure an inclusive environment, First Coast News reported.
"I will NOT refer to you with female pronouns," Thomas Caggiano of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville wrote in an email obtained by First Coast News. "If this is not acceptable for you, change classes."
Caggiano — a math teacher, the outlet said — also told the student: "I will call you by any reasonable name you like, but the pronouns are not a negotiable thing for me."
But when the student notified Principal Saryn Hatcher, things apparently changed, First Coast News said.
"Thank you for the feedback," Hatcher wrote in an email, the outlet said. "Please know that Sandalwood is a child-friendly school. Your wishes will be honored. I will handle this and get back with you."
First Coast News said it called and emailed Caggiano for comment but did not receive a reply.
What did the school district have to say?
Duval County Public Schools called the incident "unfortunate" and "not consistent with our expectations" but said staff would undergo additional training to ensure an inclusive environment at school, the outlet reported.
District spokesperson Laureen Ricks added in an email to First Coast News that "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.'"
What will happen to the teacher?
Ricks told the outlet that the teacher has been counseled, but it wasn't immediately clear if discipline will take place. The matter has been referred to the district's Office of Equity and Inclusion/Professional Standards, which can conduct an investigation, Ricks added to First Coast News.
Caggiano was given the Governor's Shine Award by Gov. Rick Scott in recognition of his "service to our country and [his] contributions to Florida's students," the outlet said.
First Coast News reported that district policy specifically addresses pronoun use when addressing transgender students, along with other guidelines
- Students should be addressed by the names/gender pronouns with which they are comfortable (e.g., he/she; they/them; ze/zir).
- Students may wear clothing that expresses their gender identities.
- Plans should be developed for restroom and/or locker room use corresponding students' gender identities.
- Students should play on sports teams corresponding with their gender identities.