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Christian Teacher Wins Major Victory in Preferred Pronouns Case, Makes Stunning Parental Rights Claim

09-01-2022
Image Source: YouTube Screenshot/ Geary County Schools USD 475
Image Source: YouTube Screenshot/ Geary County Schools USD 475

A Kansas teacher who sued after being punished for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns received a $95,000 settlement this week, bringing her legal challenge to a successful close.

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Attorneys for Christian teacher Pamela Ricard, who taught math at Fort Riley Middle School, are calling Geary County School District’s settlement a “victory for free speech at public schools.” The district will also reportedly cover Ricard’s legal fees.

Tyson Langhofer, the director of the Alliance Defending Freedom Center for Academic Freedom, said his religious liberty law firm is hopeful the case has a ripple effect, according to the Kansas City Star.

“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,” Langhofer said.

As CBN News reported, the 58-year-old Ricard filed a lawsuit against the school district after being suspended for three days in 2021 for not using a transgender student’s preferred pronouns and name.

After being told the individual no longer identifies as female, the teacher reportedly called the student “miss” and included her last name to avoid the usage of the student’s preferred first name.

Ricard, a Christian, felt it violated her religious beliefs to start using male pronouns.

At the time, the Geary County School District reportedly didn’t have official policies in place mandating such use, but trainings reportedly started the same semester Ricard was reprimanded.

When Ricard asked for a religious exemption, she was reportedly denied and feared she would face additional penalties unless she complied.

Ricard filed a lawsuit in March, seeking damages and for her disciplinary record to be clear of any infractions. She argued in the legal challenge her free speech and exercise of religion were violated by the district, according to CBN News.

“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,” her complaint read, in part.

The document continued, “Any policy that requires Ms. Ricard to refer to a student by a gendered, non-binary, 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.”

In May, the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas ruled Ricard could continue teaching as the lawsuit progressed; she has since retired.

But another element of the case has caught quite a bit of attention: the complaint claimed parents were shielded from knowledge of the student’s transgender identity.

“The important part of this case is not only was the school attempting to compel Ricard to use pronouns that would violate her conscience,” attorney Caleb Dalton told American Family News. “They prohibited her from allowing parents to even find out how their students, their children, identified at school.”

The lawsuit alleged the district implored Ricard to hide the student’s identity in parental communications, thus she was purportedly implored to use preferred pronouns at school and the legal name with parents.

In addition to the $95,000 settlement, the district also agreed to issue a statement proclaiming Ricard is in “good standing” and has no disciplinary issues on her record.

ADF attorney Joshua Ney praised the victory and said the school board should learn a lesson about “financial stakes” in cases like this.

“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,” Ney said. “Absurdity and deception has 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 conclusion of the legal matter and the settlement certainly sends a message about religious liberty in public school classrooms.

It should be noted Ricard isn’t the first educator to win amid transgender disputes. Dr. Nick Meriwether, a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, told CBN’s Faithwire earlier this year he relied on prayer and Scripture to navigate his own nearly four-year legal battle.

The college professor successfully sued his university after being punished for refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns.

Now, he’s encouraging Christians “to resist” and not “give in” to cultural pressures.

“We cannot give in,” he said, explaining what sustained him throughout the ordeal. “Scriptures were extremely helpful, the Psalms — even the book of Revelation — teaches very, very clearly we must resist in a kind way, a humble way, a reasonable way.”

Read more about his case here.

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