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A teacher at a South Dakota high school is being investigated for disputing transgender identities by sending a letter — described by one person as “very much transphobic” — to some students.

According to multiple local media outlets, the letter was handed Monday to four students by Calvin Hillesland, a German teacher at Watertown High School.


A photo of the alleged letter was widely shared on social media. Hillesland writes that when he was asked to call a transgender student by his chosen name, he tried to do that, but “I was wrong [and] it was a lie.”

He goes on to say that “every cell in your body is ♀ — female — feminine,” which he calls a “biological truth.”


Hillesland adds that he wants to encourage the student to “pursue” the “truth.”

The teacher also mentions a DVD that “will explain everything more clearly than I can — the spiritual as well as the scientific facts.”

Amy Rambow, the founder of the LGBTQ group Watertown Love, told local television station WKRC-TV that “the letter talks a lot about religion and their identities and their feelings on how they can’t count on how they’re feeling.”

Rambow, whose child goes to the high school, added that the letter is “very much transphobic. We’re just hoping that this is handled appropriately and swiftly and not swept under the rug.”

On Tuesday, Watertown School District Superintendent Jeff Danielson confirmed that a teacher had handed a note to some students.

“We did have a faculty member at the high school hand out a letter to four different students. That letter did discuss the students’ gender identity,” he said according to Dakota News Now.

Danielson added that the district doesn’t support the teacher’s actions, and it’s investigating the matter.

“We do not support discrimination of any kind for our students. We want to make sure that we create a safe learning environment for every child that comes through our doors,” he said.


One student who received the letter, 14-year-old Kai Price, told KELO-TV how the note affected him — especially coming from a teacher he used to admire.

“If I’m being honest, I have not been very confident in myself recently,” he said. “I have really been struggling with who I am as a person, and how I look, and everything else and so I thought he was trusted, I, someone I could trust and who respected me, and so when I got it, I think everything that was already going on in my life kind of really affected the way it hit me more.”

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His mother, Heather Hoffman, said she was furious at the teacher and also shocked that the anti-trans rhetoric came from a person whose job is to educate and protect her child.

“Irately angry, that somebody would go out of their way to emotionally attack a group of children, but also shocked that this is supposed to be an educator who is supposed to protect our children,” she said.

According to the Watertown Public Opinion newspaper, Ashley Bakke, the parent of another student who received the letter went to the school on Monday afternoon hoping to get some answers from Principal Brad Brandsburd.

Bakke’s son, Alex Bryant, is transgender. When he received the letter, he immediately texted a photo of it to his mother.


The school principal didn’t seem to help, Bakke said. “He was dancing around the issue and would rationalize it as generational and religious. I don’t feel like anything was addressed. It sounded like he was defending a friend.”

As a result of his inaction, Bakke decided to pull her child from the district.

“The extent of this is devastation,” she said. “Hillesland was one of his favorite teachers. At this point, Alex can get a better education and feel safe at home, and I fully agree.”

Source: nydailynews

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