Teacher who told student, ‘I will NOT refer to you with female pronouns,’ escapes serious punishment.

A Florida teacher who said he would not refer to a transgender student by “her” preferred pronoun has escaped serious consequences, receiving only “counseling” as punishment.

In an email exchange between a Jacksonville, Florida student and a teacher obtained by First Coast News, the teacher had called the request of a transgender student to be referred by her preferred gender identity as “a deal-breaker.”

Thomas Caggiano, teacher at Sandalwood High School in Duval County, wrote, “I will NOT refer to you with female pronouns. If this is not acceptable for you, change classes.” He continued, “I will call you by any reasonable name you like, but the pronouns are not a negotiable thing for me.”

Sandalwood Principal Dr. Saryn Hatcher upon being notified by the student of the exchange in an email wrote, “Thank you for the feedback. Please know that Sandalwood is a child-friendly school. Your wishes will be honored. I will handle this and get back with you.”

But, Duval County Public Schools spokesperson, Laureen Ricks, labeled the incident as regrettable and clarified that additional training would be imparted to the staff to ensure a more inclusive environment at school. So far the teacher has escaped suspension or termination over the incident.

A district policy guide states that school staff must “use pronouns and names consistent with a transgender student’s gender identity.” Additionally, schools are required to allow transgender students to use restrooms and participate in athletics associated with their gender identity.


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