Laura Jane Klug, a substitute teacher in southeast Texas, has had a tumultuous month attempting to work with Lumberton Independent School District. Though she had previously subbed at the school without any problems, that changed earlier this month after she taught a fifth-grade class and some parents complained that she is transgender. Since then, her status in the district has been in constant flux as she has experienced discrimination because of her identity at multiple turns.
Here’s a look at the month of employment uncertainty Klug has experienced:
- April 8: Klug was suspended from teaching after parents complain that her identity is a distraction to students’ learning.
- April 10: The Lumberton ISD school board heard from various members of the community, but did not address Klug’s employment during open session. After the closed-door meeting, Klug said that Superintendent John Valastro informed her that she had been reinstated.
- April 16: A week later, Klug reported that she had not received any teaching assignments since supposedly being reinstated.
- April 17: Valastro clarified that he had not actually made a decision about whether Klug should be allowed back in the classroom.
- April 24: Lumberton assigned Klug to a temporary, full-time position outside the classroom through the end of the school year.
Klug told Lone Star Q that she is relieved to have work, but is disappointed to be relegated outside the classroom: “I said I’m willing to do whatever because I really need a paycheck. It doesn’t make me very happy, but I think it should placate them [the parents] somewhat.”
The parents and community members who have complained about Klug have suggested that students might ask questions that are not “appropriate,” that she is “obscene,” or have raised concern about where she would go to the bathroom. A Facebook group supporting Klug called “Let Her Teach” has nearly 1,000 members.
Though sexual orientation and gender identity are not specifically protected under the law from employment discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has held that federal protections for “sex” include “gender identity,” and thus transgender people are protected. The school may have discriminated against Klug multiple times by not only refusing her work because of her identity, but using it to make decisions about her assignments as well. Lambda Legal has suggested that she might have a viable case against the school, but she has not pursued legal action at this time.
As many as 90 percent of Americans believe that transgender workers like Klug are guaranteed protection under the law, but they continue to face disproportionately high rates of unemployment and poverty.