Seventh Circuit Ruling on Pronoun Policy for Teachers and Students

The ongoing controversy around the application of preferred pronouns in educational settings was brought to the forefront by a decision that was handed down not too long ago by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

In the instance at hand, a former high school music teacher by the name of John Kluge refused, for religious reasons, to comply with the pronoun policy that was in place at his school. As a result, a court struggle ensued, which brought to light the necessity of better understanding and accommodation on both sides of the argument.

YES, this affects EVERYONE in CANADA!  Regarding the Timing of the Ruling.

The timeliness of the Seventh Circuit’s judgment is one of the things that makes it so fascinating. The decision was handed down on April 7th, only 11 days prior to the oral argument that was scheduled to take place in the case of Groff v. DeJoy before the Supreme Court. This case has the potential to have a substantial influence on the criterion that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals applied when rendering its decision regarding the school district. The judgment also pits the appellate court against the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which has just handed down a judgment on the Meriweather case.

The Legal Matter of Kluge

As a measure of accommodation, Mr. Kluge used just the students’ last names—”like a sports coach”—and delegated the distribution of gender-specific band outfits to another instructor. However, in more official contexts, he attempted to find a middle ground by utilizing both names. Despite this, the school system held the belief that it was emotionally and developmentally detrimental to the student to not utilize the student’s preferred name and gender when addressing the student.

The Choice Regarding the Surname

In previous situations, such as the one where the settlement was reached in the Meriwether case, the idea of using a last name was addressed. In this particular instance, a professor at Shawnee State University was successful in appealing his sentence for failing to use a student’s specified pronoun options to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which resulted in the lower court’s decision being overturned. Meriwether had offered that as a compromise, the school should simply use the protesting student’s last name or use preferred pronouns after adding a personal disclaimer to the syllabus; however, the school had rejected both of these ideas.

Legal Questions

These cases provide challenging concerns from a legal standpoint, particularly with regard to the amount of accommodation that is needed under federal law and the Constitution. This same question is at the heart of the Groff case, which is currently awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court. In the case of Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63 (1977), the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided in favor of the district by applying the “de minimis” standard. In spite of this, I believe that the Supreme Court will either modify the test or do away with it entirely.

The Division of the Circuits

Given the unanimous ruling in the Meriwether case, the judgment of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has further contributed to the dichotomy that exists among the circuits over the pronoun question. A review of the pronoun dispute by the Supreme Court is warranted even in the event that the United States Supreme Court does not alter the criteria that served as the foundation for the decision handed down by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; this is because there is now a divide among the circuits.


The verdict against Kluge brings to light the ongoing discussion over the application of preferred pronouns in educational settings, as well as the requirement for more comprehension and accommodation on all sides of the issue. The legal issues at hand are intricate, and the resolution of them will need the Supreme Court’s full and careful attention. Regardless of the decisions that are made in these circumstances, it is abundantly evident that the problem of preferred pronouns will not be resolved in the near future.

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