Florida Teacher Terminated for Using Gender-Neutral Title

Florida Teacher Terminated for Using Gender-Neutral Title

AV Vary, a high school science teacher at Florida Virtual School, was dismissed from their position on October 24th for using the gender-neutral honorific ‘Mx.’ in place of traditional titles such as ‘Mr.’ or ‘Ms.’ Vary, who prefers this title over their legal name, has since filed a discrimination complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that their termination was based on gender identity discrimination and violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Conflict: School Policy vs. Personal Identity

Florida Virtual School stated that as a public institution, it must adhere to Florida laws regarding personal titles and pronouns in the education system. This stance is in line with recent Florida legislation, particularly the expanded Parental Rights in Education Act, which restricts discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels and prohibits school employees from using pronouns or titles that don’t align with their birth sex.

Vary’s Stance: A Stand for Inclusivity

Vary began using ‘Mx.’ at the start of the school year as a gesture of inclusivity, particularly in light of recent legislation targeting LGBTQ topics in schools. Vary, who recently recognized their nonbinary identity, wanted to signal to marginalized students that they were a safe and supportive figure. However, this change in title led to a series of conflicts with the school’s administration, culminating in their dismissal.

The Legal Implications: A Civil Rights Issue

Vary argues that their right to a preferred title, in line with their gender identity, is a civil rights issue. They believe that their pronouns and the title they choose to use have no bearing on their ability to teach physics effectively. Despite proposing alternative gender-neutral titles, Vary’s refusal to comply with the school’s directive to use a standard gendered title ultimately led to their suspension and subsequent termination.

Broader Context: Teachers Under Scrutiny

This incident is part of a larger trend of teachers facing scrutiny and punitive actions over LGBTQ-related issues in Florida and other states. From firings over discussions of sexuality to resignations due to showing movies with gay characters, educators are increasingly finding themselves at the center of political battles over what is deemed appropriate in educational settings.

The Response: Student Adaptability and Teacher Responsibilities

Vary emphasizes that students quickly adapted to the change in title without needing an explanation, showcasing young people’s adaptability. They also highlight the responsibilities that teachers have towards their students, which include ensuring their well-being and safety, leaving no room for personal agendas in the classroom. Vary’s case not only brings attention to individual rights within the educational system but also to the broader issues of inclusivity and acceptance in schools.