HRC Blog

Texas Teacher: “I was Relieved of My Substitute Duties Because I’m Transgender”

Guest contributor Laura Jane Klug is professional pilot and a subsitute teacher at Lumberton Intermediate School in Lumberton, Texas. 

When I accepted myself as a transgender woman and started my journey, I made a list of people I would tell along the way. These people fell into one of three categories: family members, close friends and those in close proximity, i.e. neighbors, coworkers, church members.

That last group has caused the most trouble. My church ousted me. I ended up without a job. And a neighbor I had for more than a decade voiced a great deal of exception.

This brings us to the hullabaloo that occurred earlier this month. I have endured three years of unemployment. As a last ditch effort, I looked into teaching. I wasn’t trained as a teacher – and had been a pilot for more than 20 years. But I did have prior experience and ended up being hired as a substitute teacher for Lumberton Independent School District here in Texas. I hoped to substitute teach five days a week until the end of the semester.

Sadly, that was not to be. On Thursday, April 3, I accepted an assignment to a fifth grade math class at the intermediate school. The first two periods were uneventful. The teacher’s aide handled everything and had a good rapport with the students. Toward the end of the second period, I was asked if I would mind switching assignments. The teacher’s aide would handle the class the rest of the day. I was placed as a chaperone for two special needs students, with whom I worked on Monday. The rest of the day was uneventful. 

The strangeness started soon after. The two classes I had scheduled for Friday were suddenly and inexplicably cancelled. And when I went to the website to find my daily assignments, none were listed.

Apparently a student had seen me on Thursday and became upset. The young lady, the daughter of my longtime neighbor, made a bit of a ruckus and complained. Her mother was called and, before I even knew what was happening, it spiraled out of control.

I was relieved of my substitute duties pending a school board meeting. The meeting was heavily attended – folks from both sides voiced their opinions about me. And my dear supporters spoke passionately for giving me a fair shot in the classroom. In the end, I was retained as a substitute, but have yet to receive another assignment. 

Every day, hardworking, qualified Americans like myself are denied job opportunities, fired or otherwise discriminated against because of whom they love or how they identity. While a patchwork of state and municipal laws offer protections and a 2012 ruling gives me great hope for a ruling in my favor should I pursue legal action, nobody should have to go to court to earn a living. I certainly don’t want to.

I didn’t get a lot of time with the students before the school district cut me out. But I will never forget the glint in one young student’s eyes when we talked about airplanes and flying. I could teach these kids something, if only their school would give me a chance. 

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