Teacher who refused to use students’ preferred pronouns settles lawsuit against school district
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 1, 2022 / 15:40 pm
A Kansas middle school teacher will receive $95,000 in a settlement with her school district, which tried to force her to comply with its gender policies — even if it meant lying to parents about their children's gender transitions.
Pamala Ricard, who has taught K-12 math for decades, currently teaches grades sixth through eighth at Fort Riley Middle School in Fort Riley, Kansas.
In early 2021, school administrators began implementing “diversity and equity” training and policies for teachers, instructing them to refer to students by their “preferred names” in the classroom.
In April 2021, Ricard was suspended for three days and received a written reprimand filed under the school’s “bullying” and “harassment” policies because she called a female student by her legal name instead of her preferred name.
Afterward, the school announced a new policy mandating that teachers call students by their preferred names and pronouns and “not communicate this information to parents unless the student requests, according to the district-wide policy sent to teachers.
If not, teachers would be found guilty of committing a “discriminatory act” and were “subject to employee discipline,” the complaint said.
Represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Ricard filed the lawsuit in March against school officials because the policies violated her religious beliefs and conscience as a Christian.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas ruled in May that Ricard’s case would proceed based on her First Amendment religious exercise rights. The ruling paused the school's policy preventing parents from knowing of their child’s gender transition and exempted Ricard from being forced to use students’ preferred pronouns.
“No school district should ever force teachers to willfully deceive parents or engage in any speech that violates their deeply held religious beliefs,” ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, said in a statement.
The lawsuit was dismissed Wednesday after school officials agreed to settle by paying Ricard $95,000 and issuing a statement absolving Ricard of any disciplinary charges they brought against her.
The school board also revoked its policy that prohibited teachers from notifying parents of their child’s gender transition.
A spokesperson for the school district was not immediately available Thursday afternoon.
“We’re pleased to settle this case favorably on behalf of Pam, and we hope that it will encourage school districts across the country to support the constitutionally protected freedom of teachers to teach and communicate honestly with both children and parents,” the ADF’s Langhofer concluded.
Ricard’s case is not an isolated incident. ADF is currently representing teachers and parents free of charge across the country in litigation over gender policies.
As CNA reported earlier this week, the rise of gender policies in schools across the nation is creating problems for teachers of faith who object to concealing critical information from parents about their children.Last year, for example, a New York middle school implemented a gender support plan that referred a 12-year-old girl to a clinic that prescribes puberty blockers and conducts irreversible sex-change surgeries.