Thomas Caggiano, a math teacher from Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, FL has been suspended without pay for posting transphobic comments and memes on Facebook.
The trouble started last year when the 61-year-old Caggiano refused to use a transgender student’s pronouns. New research conducted by The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ youth, shows that transgender people are 50% less likely to kill themselves when they are surrounded by people who use their correct pronouns.
Following the incident with his student, Caggiano was given inclusion training. But the Florida Times-Union conducted an investigation revealing that the long-time instructor had taken to Facebook to mock and disparage the trans community. As a result, the school district conducted its own inquiry, which led to Caggiano being placed in a non-teaching position.
At one point, Caggiano told the district that his Facebook profile was private, however during the school year, parents, students, and reporters from the Times-Union were able to look at his page without having to log in. What they saw were memes, such as one showing a figure in a pink skirt with long blonde hair standing in front of a urinal. They also found posts where Caggiano made fun of transgender celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner.
One post disparaged transgender people who use public restrooms according to their gender identity, and not necessarily their sex. Caggiano called it “insanity” for them to do so.
The Florida Times-Union said Caggiano’s posts were “often graphic or explicit.”
In a meeting to discuss the district’s investigation into Caggiano’s behavior, the school board found that the teacher changed his story many times, and that he claimed that his Facebook profile had been “hacked numerous times.” However, the City of Jacksonville Office of General Counsel told the board that Caggiano admitted to placing at least 27 of the posts himself. So, whether he was hacked or not, those posts were his.
The school board voted unanimously to give Caggiano a written reprimand and to suspend him for five days without pay. But LGBTQ+ leaders say Caggiano should have been fired.
“The teacher in question has a long and disturbing track record of anti-LGBTQ comments and abhorrent viewpoints,” Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus President Stephen Gaskill said. “It should be the end of Mr. Caggiano’s public teaching career. A teacher’s personal views should never come at the expense of a student’s safety or well-being.”
According to The Florida Times-Union, Caggiano wrote a letter to the district’s Office of Inclusion, defending his actions. In the letter, Caggiano stated that “holding traditional views about the biological nature of sex (and the need for sex-based privacy in bathrooms and lockers) is not ‘phobia’…Sharing my belief on my personal Facebook that there are only two genders that correspond with the biological sex is not ‘phobia.’”
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Caggiano told the Times-Union. “That sums up my position.”