In lawsuit, Kansas teacher Pamela Ricard says school district pronoun policy violates her religious beliefs about gender identity

But the next day, when Ricard used the student’s last name – avoiding the new name or any other pronoun – the classmate became frustrated, leaving a note on Ricard’s desk accusing the teacher of being “transphobic”.

The note ended with a remark about the classmate’s own gender identity: “my pronouns are he/they by the way.”

In a lawsuit, Ricard – who is a Christian – says she was uncomfortable referring to students by names and pronouns different from those listed in the district’s registration system. After some disagreement with school officials over how to handle the situation, Ricard was suspended and later issued a written reprimand for her failure to comply with district diversity and inclusion policies.

Now, Ricard is suing Geary County Schools Unified School District board members, the superintendent and principal of Fort Riley Middle School, alleging they violated her First Amendment rights by forcing her using language and implementing policies that violated his personal and religious beliefs.

“Ms. Ricard believes that God created human beings as male or female, that this sex is fixed in each person from the moment of conception and that it cannot be changed, whatever the feelings, the desires or preferences of an individual person,” states the complaint, which was recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. “Any policy that requires Ms. Ricard to refer to a student by a gendered, non-binary pronoun or plural (e.g., he/him, she/her, they/them, zhe/zher, etc.) or a greeting (Mr., Miss, Mrs.) or any other gendered language different from the student’s biological sex violates actively Ms. Ricard’s religious beliefs.”

Ricard alleges that she was unjustly suspended and reprimanded for the incidents involving the two students, although the school and the district have no “formal policy regarding the use of students’ name and preferred pronoun at the time she was suspended and reprimanded.

Ricard also claims that school officials refused his religious accommodations.

“The District and the Defendants are now threatening to further punish Ms. Ricard if she continues to refrain from using a student’s preferred pronouns, expressing her point of view through silence or neutral language, or even engage in a gender-neutral policy of referring to students by their last enrolled names or with other gender-neutral language,” the lawsuit states.

Neither Geary County Schools Unified School District legal counsel Mark Edwards nor district officials responded to messages from The Washington Post. Edwards told CNN the district had no comment.

The teacher files a complaint at a pivotal moment in the fight for transgender rights in schools across the country. Last week, Florida lawmakers passed a bill to limit what educators can say to students in kindergarten through third grade about topics involving sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill is now on the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis (R), who has said he is likely to sign it. Also last week, a Texas judge suspended Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse.

The first incident in class, when the teacher called the student “missed”, occurred on April 7, 2021.

Court records indicate that the school counselor emailed Ricard that day to say that the student “would like to be called” by a “preferred alternate first name.” Ricard claims the counselor “didn’t specify anything” about the student’s last name or indicated that the teacher could not use the student’s last name. Ricard also points out in his lawsuit that the counselor used the pronoun “she” to refer to the student.

Hours later, Ricard called the student “miss” before using the student’s last name, prompting the classmate’s email. In the email, the classmate told Ricard that the student was now using he/she has different pronouns and first names, depending on the trial.

A day later, Ricard reportedly called the same student she had addressed to ‘miss’ by the student’s last name when she needed to get the student’s attention at some point. during math class.

The classmate who had defended the student the day before walked to Ricard’s office and left a note before leaving the room without the teacher’s permission, according to court records.

The note read, “his pronouns are He/Him and if you can’t act like an adult and respect him and his pronouns, be prepared to deal with his mother since you can’t be a decent human being and respect him. All you’re doing right now is showing that you’re transphobic and don’t care if you’re visibly transphobic.

The classmate also asked to be called by an alternate first name, adding “my pronouns are he/they btw.”

On April 9, school officials called Ricard into the conference room to discuss the incidents, according to his lawsuit. Ricard told them she “didn’t think we should call students by different names without parental consent,” but agreed to follow the administration’s guidelines – even if they went against her personal beliefs and religion.

That same day, she received an email announcing a three-day paid suspension while authorities investigated her for 11 possible violations of council policies, according to the complaint. On April 15, when Ricard returned from his suspension, school officials gave him a written reprimand for allegedly violating three of the board’s policies and ordered Ricard to use the same names and pronouns his students used. for themselves. Ricard signed the written reprimand but wrote “I don’t agree with this!” status of court records.

A week after Ricard returned from his suspension, the principal sent teachers documents on gender identity, as well as a document regarding “use of preferred names and pronouns”.

In October, the district adopted a policy that requires all teachers use the same names and pronouns as their students, the complaint states.

In the months following his suspension and written reprimand, Ricard appealed the disciplinary action at least three times, according to the lawsuit. The school board denied all of his appeals.

As of March 3, Ricard had at least two students in his classes with stated pronouns that do not match their biological sex, the complaint states.

Ricard, according to the lawsuit, could be terminated at any time if she fails to comply with the imposed policy: “Ms. Ricard faces the imminent possibility of subsequent disciplinary action, up to and including termination, if she violates district policies. seeking, in accordance with his or her conscience and religious beliefs, to avoid the use of student or employee preferred pronouns that are different from those of the student. or the biological sex of the employee.

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