A Swedish teacher has been fired for refusing to refer to a non-binary student named “Saga” with a gender-neutral pronoun in a case that is attracting widespread attention in Sweden.
The young transgender person, along with his parents, had been asking the teacher for eight months to refer to him using “hen,” which is a new Swedish pronoun which is neither masculine nor feminine, and which was only accepted in the Swedish school dictionary in 2015.
The pronoun “Hen” is not widely used in Sweden, but Saga, which is not the student’s real name but how the Swedish press is referring, to him, wanted the teacher to use it, arguing that it helped him deal with psychological issues arising from being unsure about his gender identity.
The teacher, for her part, justified her refusal by highlighting her Christian faith and said she was “defending an ideology-free language in the school system.”
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The Swedish ombudsman took up the case and said that it was a serious form of harassment and case of discrimination that needed to be fought.
In the ombudsman’s press release, the authority states “that the teacher, against the student’s express wishes, deliberately refrained from using the pronoun that the student identifies with, which is a serious form of harassment and something that a principal must immediately ensure ceases. At school, all students should feel safe and respected and not discriminated.”
The school, which did not act quickly enough, will have to pay compensation of €15,000 euros to the teenager, which is a first in Sweden.
The teacher, for her part, was fired.
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Saga was harassed and discriminated against by his teacher, who refused to use a gender-neutral pronoun, according to the Discrimination Ombudsman in its verdict, as reported by Aftonbladet.
“This is an incredible confirmation. No other child should ever have to go through what Saga had to,” Saga’s mother says.
“Despite the principal’s promise to talk to the teacher, the student was called a wrong pronoun for more than one semester,” states the Discrimination Ombudsman in a press release.
Clas Lundstedt, press officer at the Discrimination Ombudsman, believes that the decision may affect similar cases in the future. Saga’s parents are of the same opinion.