Judge Backs Florida Teacher in Trans Student Case

TALLAHASSEE — An administrative law judge Monday backed a Miami-Dade County teacher who reportedly told a transgender student that, “I’m a Christian, and my God made no mistakes” while refusing to call the student by preferred pronouns.

Judge John Van Laningham said the state Education Practices Commission, which can discipline teachers, should exonerate Yojary E. Mundaray on allegations of wrongdoing stemming from the December 2019 incident at Jose de Diego Middle School. The Miami-Dade County school district terminated Mundaray, a science teacher, in June 2020 after a complaint about the incident, VanLaningham wrote.

The incident started when Mundaray reprimanded the student, who was identified at birth and in school records as a female, for what the judge described as “routine classroom horseplay.” The student then privately told Mundaray that he was transgender, identified as male and wanted her to use masculine pronouns when addressing him.

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Mundaray said she could not do that because of her Christian beliefs, which led the student to reply, “I think God made a mistake,” Van Laningham wrote.

The teacher then said, “I’m a Christian, and my God made no mistakes,” according to Monday’s decision.

Mundaray was accused of imposing her religious views on the student, but Van Laningham refuted that allegation and wrote that the “case is not about proselytizing but about transgender ideology.” Van Laningham referred to the student by the pseudonym “Pat” and with female pronouns. Other documents in the case referred to the student by the initials S.S.

“Given that Mundaray made no attempt to force Pat to accept, conform to, or even acknowledge any Christian doctrine, the allegation that she imposed her personal religious views on Pat is untrue,” Van Laningham wrote. “At most, Mundaray expressed her view that God is inerrant, which is about as anodyne a theological statement as one could make. Further, she did so only in defense of the God she worships. Surely, such cannot constitute a disciplinable offense in a country whose foundational principles include religious freedom.”

In a footnote, Van Laningham referred to a “new secular faith” of “transgenderism.”

“Advocates of transgenderism can be as doctrinaire as religious zealots these days,” the judge wrote. “As this case demonstrates, adhering to the traditional view that gender is biologically determined can get a person excommunicated, from a job in this instance.”

Also, he pointed to a law that Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature approved this year that established a policy for schools that “a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait and that it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex.”

“In short, had the incident with Pat occurred today, instead of three years ago, Mundaray would have been protected against the significant loss she suffered simply for refusing to do what the law now deems ‘false,’” the judge wrote.

A complaint filed against Mundaray by the state said the Miami-Dade school district conducted an investigation after receiving a complaint from a parent of the student. It said the investigation found probable cause that Mundaray violated school-board policies, leading to the termination.

“On or about December 20, 2019, respondent (Mundaray) imposed her personal religious views on S.S., a sixth-grade student,” the complaint said. “When S.S. informed respondent that he identified as a boy, respondent told S.S. that God created him as a girl and does not make mistakes, or words to that effect, causing S.S. to become upset and/or cry.”

Allegations against Mundaray included that she was guilty of “personal conduct that seriously reduced her effectiveness as an employee of the school district” and that she violated principles of professional conduct, the complaint said.

When probable cause is found, the education commissioner is required by state law to pursue the allegations. Ultimately, the Education Practices Commission could take a range of disciplinary actions from issuing a reprimand to suspending or revoking teacher certification.

Under administrative law, Van Laningham’s ruling is a recommended order that will go to the Education Practices Commission for a final decision.

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