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Ohio

School refuses comment in dismissal of transgender student-teacher

By Gary Huffenberger
Wilmington News Journal
Friday, May 4, 2012

WILMINGTON, Ohio — When an area school district dismissed a Wilmington College transgender senior in January on the second day of a student-teaching placement at Hillsboro High School, the district may have broken federal law.

In a statement to the Wilmington News Journal, the Hillsboro school district superintendent based the dismissal on an alleged violation of the Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators.

When on two separate occasions the newspaper requested he cite an excerpt from the code for his decision, he declined to discuss the matter in further detail.

Title IX federal law, however, “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes on the basis of failing to conform with gender stereotypes,” said a U.S. Department of Education spokesman. The federal department of education’s press policy is not to use the spokesperson’s name. That department’s Office for Civil Rights enforces several federal laws, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

In April, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled transgender people are protected from discrimination in the workplace, The Associated Press reported. The commission’s decision said that a refusal to hire or otherwise discriminate on the basis of gender identity is by definition sex discrimination under federal law.

The 21-year-old student teacher, who at birth was listed as female but who identifies as male and wears men’s clothing, was removed from a Hillsboro High School art classroom and told his placement was over.

Hillsboro City School Superintendent Rick Earley said, “We expect all employees or anyone who comes into our district to be sure to understand the Ohio Code of Ethics for Ohio Educators. Any violation of that we take seriously because we want to protect the well-being of our students and that we protect the educational integrity of Hillsboro City Schools.”

Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education President Sam Barnhouse said Earley informed the board of the action, adding “not a whole lot of detail was given.”

Earley advised the board it was a matter of ethics, Barnhouse said. The student-teacher had discussed his gender-nonconformity with a class, and Earley felt that the person was there to teach and not to discuss personal matters, said Barnhouse.

A retired teacher and principal, Barnhouse said he’s comfortable with the superintendent’s action.

Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education Vice President Beverly Rhoads said the superintendent apprised her the situation was a matter of ethics.

The WC student, who is from rural Ohio, will be anonymous for this report. He said he doesn’t expect to lodge a legal complaint.

The Hillsboro High School principal advised him he had crossed professional boundaries, according to the WC student.

In a News Journal interview, the student said, “I was reminded teachers live in a fish bowl and they’re under constant scrutiny from parents and students alike, and that my behaviors had been outside their community policies.”

The college student said he advised the high school’s supervising art teacher prior to the start of the term he is transgender — not to be confused with a transsexual who has had or will get a sex change operation.

On the first day of class, when some students made he-she comments, the student teacher said he “felt more or less disrespected” and thought he needed to address it for purposes of establishing discipline and to avoid the “telephone game” effect.

“I would much rather say it very openly and honestly and ask if they have questions, comments or concerns, than for it to get around and be misconstrued and be like the game telephone, where things aren’t passed around accurately,” he said.

At three prior student-teaching placements — at Holmes Elementary School in Wilmington, Denver Place Elementary School in Wilmington and at Blanchester High School — the gender-nonconforming WC student was not dismissed.

Michele Beery, WC associate professor of education and area coordinator for the Education Department, said the student-teacher is dedicated and “and has worked hard to meet the criteria for student teaching.”

The cooperating art teacher at Hillsboro, Sarah Horsley, declined comment to the newspaper.

Hollis Stevenson, president of the Hillsboro Education Association teachers union, also declined to comment.

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13 more reader comments:

  1. How sad

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:00am
  2. Wow, that is stupid. It doesn’t matter who or what you are, if you are a good teacher and a good person thats all that matters not whats between your legs.

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:02am
  3. THATS BULLSHIT!!! Closed minded people really upset me

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:06am
  4. What are you saying to this person? Why don’t you hire a sex offender. That’s what seems to be happening in school today! I can’t believe anyone would fire this teacher. I think she should sue the school system for discrimination. After only 2 days of teaching, they have no right to fire this teacher. I hope she sues big and wins big.

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:07am
  5. They need to say something on the issue and not just brush it under the rug, come on now!

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:11am
  6. If there is federal money in the state talk with HUD about legal no cost options for Trans job discrimination.

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:13am
  7. The next thing they probably do is hire someone that no qualified for the job just because they fit their standards of living or seem to.

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:18am
  8. The biggest thing that upset me about this is the teacher said he probably wouldn’t fight their action. Why not?! If you don’t stand up for yourself people aren’t going to be as willing to take notice of their wrong doings.

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:19am
  9. BULLSHIT to LGBTQ didn’t help me after I already to email LGBTQ and deaf lawyers, GLAD-LA, OC, Ventura and Santa barabra deaf service and my hearing friends and ex lovers, family who didnt say anything about it… TOO LATE? huh? that is not right and not fair to me, School have right to remove transgender and what about me in my past DUH? GROW UP.

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:26am
  10. is good pre-transgender lesbian deaf person.

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:28am
  11. HELLO?

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:28am
  12. Ohio, one of the two states that refuse to amend the gender on birth certificates of transpersons, even with a court order.

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:37am
  13. wasnt on the payroll for starters..student teachers are volunteers, teachers aides, only there for course credit…just to clarify…now for my outrage at the self righteous bigots that run that school system..FUCK U AND SHAME ON U…IF ONE OF UR PUBLIC SCHOOL TAUGHT JACKASS STUDENTS DISRESPECTED ME, ID DAMN WELL SAY SOMETHING TO THE WHOLE FUCKIN CLASS TO KEEP THE FUCKIN STORY STRAIGHT..

    Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 11:25am