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A New Zealand high school maths teacher has had his teaching license cancelled for refusing to call his Year 10 student by her preferred name and pronouns.
The New Zealand teaching council’s Complaints Assessment Committee charged the teacher with serious misconduct for not calling the student by a male name and he/him pronouns, a charge the teacher denies.
“I have been accused of serious misconduct and deny this charge,” he wrote in his submission to the Teacher’s Tribunal (pdf).
“On the contrary, I believe I would be guilty of serious misconduct and child abuse if I was to call the girl in my year-10 class by a boy’s name as I was compelled to do.”
In February 2021, the teacher arranged a meeting with his student and stated that transitioning went against his beliefs and values as a Christian and refused to agree to the student’s suggestion to use her preferred name while continue using she/her pronouns.
He told his student, who was 14 years old at the time, that he did not want her to walk down the “path of sin” and continued to use her given name.
The teacher stated that compelling him to call a girl student by a boy’s name was “asking me to go against my core Christian belief.”
He also expressed concern that children and young people were particularly vulnerable to outside influences that suggested their sex was a personal choice.
“Schools should in no way suggest gender is a choice or in any way encourage or condone pursuing gender changes,” he said.
The teacher added that allowing students to identify themselves as the opposite gender led to a slippery slope where people would be able to identify as “anything that is not their actual identity.”
He gave examples that included young people identifying as elderly, a student of European descent identifying as Maori or African, or a student wanting to use the pronoun “Your Honour.”
“Although these examples may seem absurd, they are the same logic as calling a girl a boy, or a boy a girl, and may lead to abuse of teachers (and others),” he said.
Additionally, he said the legal age to change names in New Zealand was 18 and argued the school should not compel him to call a student by a name that was not presented as a legal name change.
The three-person tribunal, headed by Deputy Chair Tim MacKenzie, had “no hesitation” when concluding that the teacher had behaved with “serious misconduct.”
They noted the “adverse” effect it had on the student, who said, “It hurt my feelings though, and I was uncomfortable with him.”
“For a trusted teacher to not only ignore the student’s wishes (and instruction of the school) but also to isolate them and advise them it was wrong, risked quite significant harm in our view,” MacKenzie said.
The tribunal also labelled the teacher’s arguments—which, in addition to gender dysphoria, discussed the harms of homosexuality and abortion and associated such behaviour with “the devil”—as “disgraceful.”
“The balance of Mr [redacted]’s arguments are borne from unrealistic hysteria, and we need not go into them further,” MacKenzie wrote.
“We note that even without the submissions of Mr [redacted], we would have found the charge proven on the pure conduct alone.”
MacKenzie said the teacher was entitled to his views and beliefs, but the tribunal had considered whether he had “rehabilitative prospects,” which they concluded to be none.
“In our view, there is a real and appreciable risk that such conduct, or similar conduct, will be repeated by Mr [redacted] if he was to be in that position again,” they said.
As a result of the review, the teacher’s registration was cancelled.
In response, the teacher said he had no further submissions to make.
The decision also revealed that the teacher had resigned after the complaint had been made.
Punished for Beliefs
The case in New Zealand follows a similar instance in April, where a federal appeals court in the U.S. state of Indiana upheld a lower court’s ruling that it was lawful for a school district to fire a teacher who refused to call students by their preferred pronouns.
John Kluge, a former music theory and orchestra teacher at Brownsburg High School, was ordered in 2017 to use students’ names and pronouns based on their new gender identity registered in the school’s database.
Citing his Christian beliefs, Kluge requested a religious accommodation by referring to all students only by their surnames, to which the school district officials initially agreed.
However, following complaints by several teachers and students about the last-names-only compromise, the school district decided no exceptions to its “transgender affirmation” policies were allowed beginning the 2018-2019 school year, revoking Kluge’s religious accommodation.
He was forced to resign in order to live by his beliefs.
Bill Pan contributed to this report.