A physics teacher in Florida has been fired from their school for using a gender-neutral title to align with their non-binary identity.
AV Vary, who has been a teacher for 15 years and came out as non-binary last year, was let go from Florida Virtual School after using a gender-neutral title in class, opting to go by “Mx.” rather than “Mrs” or “Ms”.
Vary was told by the school that gender-neutral titles were in violation of an expansion of the state’s Parental Rights in Education Act – otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The bill prohibits teachers and students from sharing preferred “personal titles and pronouns” that do not correspond to their sex assigned at birth.
A non-binary teacher has been fired from a school in Florida after requesting to go by a gender-neutral title. (Getty Images)
That statute prompted school districts across Florida to crack down on the use of “they/them” pronouns and even nicknames in some cases.
Speaking to local news station WMNF, Vary said that, when they first talked to the principal about their decision to go by a gender-neutral title, “he didn’t say anything at first.” But one month later, Vary says they were told it was going to be an issue.
When Vary tried to find a compromise and suggest other gender-neutral titles, they were told that wouldn’t work either.
“I was told that professor was not okay, Dr. was not okay for me because I didn’t have a Ph.D., but there are lots of people at FLVS who do use Dr., which, coincidentally, is also in violation of the same law I got disciplined for,” they said.
Vary refused to go by the title “Ms”, and it was eventually decided that she would be fired – despite Florida’s ongoing teacher shortage crisis.
In September, Fox News Tampa Bay reported that the state’s teacher shortages had hit a record high, with over 7,000 vacancies for teachers and support staff.
Many point to Ron DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill as a cause of the state’s teacher shortage. (Getty)
The Florida Education Association (FEA) has blamed the piling number of school vacancies on the restrictive education policies recently introduced by Governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.
The FEA’s president Andrew Spar told Newsweek earlier in the year that teachers “don’t want to be in a profession in a state where they’re constantly being criticised on falsehoods so that the governor can further his political ambition,”
Now that Vary has been fired, their class will be divided into already chock-full classes.
“All these teachers who already have full loads then had to take on my students,” said Vary.
“My students were divided amongst the rest of the physics team. That stinks, that absolutely stinks.”
In a statement to Advocate, spokesperson Laura Neff-Henderson said: “As a Florida public school, FLVS is obligated to follow Florida laws and regulations pertaining to public education.”
Now, Vary has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which could prompt a legal challenge of the “Don’t Say Gay” law’s expansion.
“I feel very strongly in standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves,” Vary told local paper Orlando Sentinel.
“I didn’t ever say, ‘Hey! I’m non-binary’,” they added. “We had physics to do.”