In what many hope will be a precedent-setting case, a Kansas teacher who was suspended for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns and hide a student’s gender transition from her parents has been awarded a $95,000 settlement.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) threatened to take the matter to court. On Wednesday, school officials relented and the suit was dismissed.
ADF announced the outcome, noting that it was a victory for teachers, for parents and for free speech.
Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel and Director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom said, “No school district should ever force teachers to willfully deceive parents or engage in any speech that violates their deeply held religious beliefs.”
Langhofer added: “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.”
Pamela Ricard was a math teacher at Fort Riley Middle School. She was reprimanded then suspended after challenging a school district policy requiring faculty to use a student’s preferred name while addressing the student but use the student’s legal name when speaking to parents.
Ricard asserted that the school policy violated her conscience.
Administrators at Fort Riley Middle School retaliated when Ricard asserted that a teacher should refer to students by their legal name and pronouns that corresponded with their biological sex.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas sided with Ricard in a ruling that can send ripples throughout the nation.
Joshua Ney, partner at Kriegshauser Ney Law Group and an attorney in the ADF Attorney Network, commented on the ramifications of the ruling:
“This case provides straightforward lessons for Kansas school boards: Schools shouldn’t lie to parents, and teachers don’t forfeit their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door.”
Ney added: “The Geary County School District unsuccessfully tried to convince a federal court that a teacher should completely avoid using a child’s name during a parent-teacher conference in order to hide new names and genders being used by the school for a child in a classroom.
“Absurdity and deception have its limits, especially in federal court. I’m glad the case clarifies the financial stakes for school boards if they attempt to force teachers to lie to parents about their students.”
The ADF reported that the school board voted to revoke the parental communications policy following the settlement.
According to the Daily Wire, in addition to agreeing to pay a substantial fine, school officials agreed to reinstate Ricard and issue a statement noting that she was employed in good standing, had no disciplinary actions on her record and would be eligible to receive a full benefits package when she retired (as previously planned) in May.
NBC News reported that Geary County school officials have no comment on the settlement.
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