A Florida high school principal told a transgender male student claiming to be female, “Your wishes will be honored.” The school administrator made that promise after a teacher refused to use the student’s preferred female pronouns.
“I will NOT refer to you with female pronouns,” wrote math teacher Thomas Caggiano of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville in an email obtained by First Coast News. “If this is not acceptable for you, change classes.”
“I will call you by any reasonable name you like, but the pronouns are not a negotiable thing for me,” Caggiano added.
However, when the transgender student contacted the principal, Dr. Saryn Hatcher, Hatcher replied, “Please know that Sandalwood is a child-friendly school. Your wishes will be honored. I will handle this and get back with you.”
According to the news report, a Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) spokesperson referred to Caggiano’s response to the transgender student as “unfortunate” and said he has been “counseled.”
“In regards to this incident – It was unfortunate that it happened and is not consistent with our expectations,” Laureen Ricks said, continuing:
However, 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.”
Ricks added the matter has been referred to the school district’s Office of Equity and Inclusion/Professional Standards, which may conduct an investigation.
In 2014, former Gov. Rick Scott (R) awarded Caggiano, who served in the U.S. Navy, the Governor’s Shine Award. Caggiano was recognized with five other educators “for their service to our country and their contributions to Florida’s students.”
The award is presented to Floridians “who have positively impacted children through education,” states the Florida Department of Education.
“It is an honor to thank these teachers who went from serving their country to serving Florida students in the classroom,” Scott said. He added:
A great education system is key to creating a highly-skilled workforce and driving our economy forward. These teachers have gone above and beyond the call of duty by preparing our students today for the jobs of tomorrow, and I thank them for their continued service to Florida families.
According to the department, Caggiano has served Sandalwood High students since 2002. He teaches Advanced Placement Statistics and Calculus and has “an average passing rate close to 80 percent.”
Additionally, he has taught pre-calculus, trigonometry, and analytical geometry.
The school district has embraced gender ideology and, according to First Coast News, states in its policy that students must:
- Be addressed by the name/gender pronoun with which they are comfortable. Some examples include: He/She; They/Them; or Ze/Zir. This list is not meant to be exhaustive.
- Be permitted to wear clothing that expresses their consistently asserted gender identity;
- Develop a plan for restroom and/or locker room use corresponding to their consistently [sic]
- Play on the sports team corresponding with their consistently asserted gender identity.
“Caggiano has been called out by several commenters on Twitter, including former DCPS students who cite their own experience with intolerance,” First Coast News also reported. “In response, @DuvalSchools posted a link to complaint procedures.”