A Christian teacher in Kansas is suing her school board, the superintendent, and the principal after allegedly being suspended for using a student’s wrong transgender pronouns.
Fort Riley Middle School teacher Pamela Ricard claims the suspension violated her First Amendment religious freedom rights.
The complaint said:
Ms. Ricard believes that God created human beings as either male or female, that this sex is fixed in each person from the moment of conception, and that it cannot be changed, regardless of an individual person’s feelings, desires, or preferences. Any policy that requires Ms. Ricard to refer to a student by a gendered, nonbinary, or plural pronoun (e.g., he/him, she/her, they/them, zhe/zher, etc.) or salutation (Mr., Miss, Ms.) or other gendered language that is different from the student’s biological sex actively violates Ms. Ricard’s religious beliefs
The lawsuit claims the school board suspended her and issued a written reprimand for failing to follow the school’s policies regarding diversity and inclusion.
On April 7, 2021, Ricard allegedly called one of her students “miss” to gain her attention. Another classmate emailed Ricard after class informing her of the student’s different first name and new he/him pronouns.
The following day, Ricard addressed the student by her last name, avoiding using pronouns entirely. The same classmate who emailed Ricard, frustrated, left a note on her desk calling her “transphobic,” adding, “my pronouns are he/they btw.”
The classmate’s note said:
His pronouns are He/Him & if you cant act like an Adult & respect him & his pronouns then prepare yourself to deal with his mother since you cant be a decent human being and respect him. All youre doing right now is showing that youre transphobic & don’t care that youre being visibly transphobic.
Two days after the initial incident, Ricard discussed the issue with school officials, the complaint said. Later that day, the district put Ricard on a three-day paid suspension while school officials investigated any possible violations of school board policy, the complaint alleges.
Once Ricard returned from the suspension, the school reprimanded her for allegedly violating school board policies. The board also ordered Ricard to use the student’s new name and pronouns. Ricard signed the reprimand but handwrote, “I do not agree with this,” the complaint said.
During an August closed board hearing regarding Richard’s employee discipline, the board allegedly denied her request for a “specific accommodation and policy that would allow her to continue to address students by their names but refrain from using preferred pronouns or other gender-specific language, for a student when such pronouns or language were different than the student’s biological sex.”
Although the school suspended her in April, Ricard claims the school had no “formal policy regarding student preferred name and pronoun use at the time she was suspended and reprimanded.”
One week after her suspension, the school principal sent all teachers training documents on “Diversity Training on Gender Identity and Gender Expression as well as a protocol document regarding the Use of Preferred Names and Pronouns,” according to the complaint. The district then implemented a policy requiring teachers to use their students’ preferred names and pronouns in October.
“No public school teacher should be forced to contradict their core beliefs in order to teach math to middle schoolers,” Ricard told the Washington Post. “I treat all students with respect, but the district has rejected any attempts to find a compromise that respects students without violating my convictions.”
“The school district disciplined Ms. Ricard not for something she said, but for something she couldn’t say,” Ricard’s attorney said.
The case is Ricard v. USD 475 Geary County Schools School Board, No. 5:22-cv-04015, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.