Cheyenne Substitute Teacher Says He Was Kicked Out For Not Using Trans Names

A Wyoming substitute teacher says he was barred from working in Laramie County School District No. 1 after refusing to use preferred transgender names of students.

Clair McFarland

June 04, 20248 min read

Gene Clemetson was escorted out of East High School in Laramie County School District No. 1 while substitute teaching in March. The substitute teacher says he’s been barred from a Cheyenne-based school district after refusing to use preferred transgender names of students.
Gene Clemetson was escorted out of East High School in Laramie County School District No. 1 while substitute teaching in March. The substitute teacher says he’s been barred from a Cheyenne-based school district after refusing to use preferred transgender names of students. (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

A substitute teacher says he’s been barred from a Cheyenne-based school district after refusing to use preferred transgender names of students.

Gene Clemetson was escorted out of East High School in Laramie County School District No. 1 while substitute teaching in March, he told Cowboy State Daily in a recent interview.

The conflict began when a student whom Clemetson described as a boy identifying as a girl approached Clemetson and asked to be called by an alternate name.

“I said to him, very politely, I have to go by the name on the roster,” Clemetson recounted.

The student returned with another teacher, who said the student’s parents had approved of the school using the alternate name.

“Well that’s great, but again, if I’m calling the attendance, if I’m calling the roll, I’m going by the names officially registered with the district,” Clemetson recalls saying.

Clemetson told Cowboy State Daily that if a student were to legally change his or her name, then Clemetson would call the student by the student’s new name. He said he resists a trend of bowing to people’s fleeting “whim or frivolity” about the names issue.

Then the principal confronted Clemetson about the alternate name, he said.

“He proceeded to tell me I did not fit in at East High School, that I was not welcome back,” Clemetson said. “And he proceeded to tell me he was going to report me to the administration and then had me escorted out of the building by his vice principal.”

On another occasion in the spring semester, Clemetson was substitute teaching at Triumph High School.

Again, a student whom Clemetson described as a “young lady” approached asking to be called by an alternate name. The student became upset when Clemetson refused, he recalled.

He said the principal at Triumph also asked him to leave the building and that the human resources department would be contacting him.

The Meeting With HR

Clemetson recorded his meeting with the human resources officials, which indicates that there was at least one other complaint leveled against him pertaining to his reported qualms with a documentary he was told to show to students.

“I’m recording, by the way,” Clemetson tells Assistant Superintendent of HR Vicki Thompson and HR Director Jen Brownhill, in an audio recording Clemetson provided to Cowboy State Daily.

Thompson thanks Clemetson for letting them know.

The meeting’s purpose was to go over substitute teacher evaluations the department had received, Thompson added.

“It says, ‘Gene was asked by a counselor in advance to use a student’s preferred name; Gene refused and was rude to the staff member,’” Thompson reads aloud from one of the evaluations, in the recording. She describes a back and forth between Clemetson and a school official who ultimately asked him to leave.

Plastic Wars

The next complaint was from a female teacher for whom Clemetson substituted in March, Thompson notes in the recording.

“He was supposed to play a documentary for my … environmental class called ‘Plastic Wars,’” Thompson reads aloud.

Clemetson interjects during this part of the recording, saying he did play “Plastic Wars” for that teacher’s classes.

“He turned the documentary off after about 20 minutes and called me a liberal radical and a tree hugger and an environmental quack,” Thompson reads aloud, in the recording.

“That’s a lie,” Clemetson counters. “That never happened.”

Thompson reads more from the teacher’s account: “After all the comments on my character he proceeded to (say) plastic pollution is not real, and the oil field pays for their education.”

Clemetson denies this claim also in the recording, as well as a claim that the students were unruly under Clemetson’s supervision.

Last Complaint

The last complaint from which Thompson reads describes a Triumph official’s perspective on Clemetson’s conflict at Triumph High School.

“Gene refused to use students’ preferred names,” Thompson reads, in the recording. “Three students were upset and went to their counselors or advisors.”

Clemetson asked if school policy requires substitute teachers to call students by preferred names.

Thompson says she’ll get back to him on that.

He tells her he was escorted out of the building for nebulous reasons.

Discovery Program

Something else Clemetson takes issue with in the recording is a program at Triumph in which students are allowed to call teachers by their first names.

“I will not have a child addressing me by my first name,” he tells Thompson, in the recording.

Thompson says that system is part of Triumph’s discovery program.

According to Triumph High School’s website, the Discovery is an alternative program geared toward developing social and academic skills in students, especially those considered “at-risk.” The website says the program has helped schools and students nationwide with “problem issues such as student apathy, violence, low academic achievement and poor attendance.”

Sorry, Personnel

Laramie County School District 1 Community Relations Director Mary Quast declined Friday to comment on Clemetson’s standing with the district, adding that the district can’t speak publicly about personnel issues.

Under Wyoming’s public meeting laws, public boards go into executive session when discussing personnel issues.

But Quast pointed Cowboy State Daily toward the district’s policies, including:

·         Chapter 1, Section 4, which says district employees must adhere to administrative rules.

·         Chapter 6, Section 13, which says substitute teachers occupy an at-will position.

·         Chapter 8, Section 10, which says students rights will be in compliance with the Office of Civil Rights Regulations.

·         And Chapter 8, Section 25, which aligns the district policy with the federal education law Title IX’s ban on sexual discrimination and harassment.

President Joe Biden’s U.S. Department of Education has added the term “gender identity” under the term “sex” in Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination, meaning schools risk their federal funding and federal compliance if they allow discrimination against people on the basis of gender identity.

The rule appears to extend to classroom speech. A draft exposition of the rule argues for several paragraphs against detractors’ claims that it violates freedom of speech, ultimately concluding that the rule fits within the narrow legal exception by which governments can go around people’s fundamental rights.

Wyoming Federal Court Says This Doesn’t Violate Freedom Of Speech

Clemetson told Cowboy State Daily he considers the names argument a free-speech issue. He pointed to compelled-speech lawsuits that teachers have won after refusing to use transgender students’ preferred names.

“Gender (language) is a First Amendment issue,” said Clemetson in his interview. “Nobody should be forced to go along with someone else’s thought process. If you’re a boy and you want to consider yourself a girl, I don’t have to buy into that.”

But in the federal U.S. District Court for Wyoming, a judge ruled last year that teachers don’t have a free-speech right to avoid using students’ preferred names, if the school’s policy requires them to do so.

It is unclear if LCSD1's policies require teachers to do so: a search through the district's policies for the word "preferred" produced only rules on vehicle use and contract bidding. A search for the word "pronoun" yielded no search results. And a search for the word "transgender" likewise yielded no search results.

“Referring to a student by their chosen or preferred names in a classroom, pursuant to a school district policy, is part of a teacher’s official duties,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl in a December 2023 order in the case of Willey v. Sweetwater County School District No. 1.

A Rock Springs mother and father are suing their school district on claims the district actively hid their daughter’s transgender identity from them. The student’s mother, Ashley Willey, is a teacher in a different school in the district. She’d accused the district of unconstitutionally compelling her speech by handing down a policy requiring teachers to use students’ preferred names.

But Skavdahl dismissed that claim.

“The Court is not persuaded that calling students a preferred name, including one that does not align with a student’s biological sex, forces Mrs. Willey to forgo her First Amendment right to free speech,” he wrote.

But, Skavdahl added, Ashley Willey may still have a First Amendment claim as a teacher, if she can prove that the school’s preferred-names policy violates her right to religious freedom.

The case is ongoing.

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter