Dr. Melissa Deckman is a Professor of Political Science at Washington College and a PRRI Affiliated Scholar. Her research interests center on the intersection of religion, women, and politics. She has written in the past about the Christian Right’s participation in school board politics. Her most recent work is as co-editor and contributor to Curriculum and the Culture Wars: Debating the Bible’s Place in Public Schools. PRRI sat down with Dr. Deckman to discuss the significance of the book.
Last August, Mark Krolikowski was laid off after 32 years of teaching at St. Francis Preparatory School, a 150-year-old Catholic school in Queens, New York. Now, Krolikowski is suing the school, saying that the school fired him because of his transgender identity, which he revealed eight months before he was dismissed. According to the suit, after a complaint about his appearance from the parent of a freshman student, Krolikowski was told that being transgender was “worse than gay.”
Krolikowski, who routinely wore suits and neckties to work, admitted that his habit of wearing earrings and French manicures was “unconventional.” After meeting with school administrators about the complaint, he said that he promised to “tone down” his appearance, but he was dismissed at the end of the year. Since then, an online student petition, asking the school to apologize, has made headlines.
More than 8-in-10 (81%) Americans – including 84% of Catholics – agree that legal protections that apply to gay and lesbian people should also apply to transgender people. Approximately 9-in-10 Americans (89%) and Catholics (93%) also believe that transgender people deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Catholics say they know what the term “transgender” means, and 1-in-10 (10%) Catholics say they have a close friend or family member who is transgender.
The school’s lawyer denied all of the allegations, saying that Krolikowski was terminated legally. Krolikowski’s lawyers are, however, arguing that the firing violated New York State and City law. New York City specifically includes gender identity when prohibiting hiring and firing based on various characteristics like age, race, and sexual orientation.