Kansas Teacher Sues School For Failing To Accommodate Her Christian Beliefs Over Gender Pronouns Policy

Kansas Teacher Sues School for Failing To Accommodate Her Christian Beliefs Over Gender Pronouns Policy

A middle school teacher in Kansas who was punished for refusing to use a student's preferred name and gender pronouns has filed a lawsuit against the school.

Pamela Ricard, a middle school teacher at Fort Riley Middle School in Kansas, Missouri on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against the Geary County School District for violating her constitutional rights after it refused to accommodate her Christian beliefs. The Kansas teacher was suspended for three days after she refused to call a student by their preferred first name and gender pronouns, which was school policy.

According to the Washington Times, Ricard has taught in the Fort Riley school in Kansas City for 16 years when in April 2021, she addressed a student as "miss" to avoid the student's preferred first name because the student wished to use he/him pronouns. The Kansas teacher believed that by calling the student "miss," she would have respected and student and at the same time, upheld her Christian beliefs on gender, the lawsuit said.

Moreover, a school counselor at Fort Riley Middle School informed Ricard that the student wanted to be called by a different first name than their legal and enrolled name. Ricard was never informed by the student of this preference, but a classmate told the Kansas teacher that the student used he/him pronouns, the lawsuit, which was filed by Kriegshauser Ney Law Group, explained.

However, Ricard, being a Christian, believes that God assigns gender at birth and any gender pronouns policy the school had that required her to use language that is different from the student's biological sex would "actively [violate] Ms. Ricard's religious beliefs." At the time of the incident, the school did not have a formal policy on gender pronouns in place. But the Kansas teacher was suspended under the school district's bullying and diversity and inclusion policies.

One week after Ricard was suspended, Fort Riley Middle School's principal announced a new gender pronouns policy with training and protocol materials that required teachers and staff to use students' preferred names and pronouns. The Kansas teacher appealed her discipline, asking three times to be allowed a religious exemption, which was never accommodated by the school, the lawsuit said.

AP News reported that in September, Geary County School District's Board of Education approved a policy that required faculty and staff to use students' preferred names and pronouns. During the meeting, the board rejected Ricard's request for a religious exemption to the policy. Moreover, the district has warned the Kansas teacher that they would discipline her again if she continues to refuse to abide by the policies and use students' preferred names and pronouns or use gender-neutral language, the lawsuit said.

Ricard has named the school board and Superintendent Reginald Eggleston and Fort Riley Middle School principal Kathleen Brennan in the lawsuit and has accused the district of violating her "constitutional rights to free speech, free exercise of her religion, due process and equal protection under the law."

One of Ricard's attorneys, Josh Ney, argued that the school cannot "cannot force teachers to promote novel views about gender fluidity and ever-expanding pronoun categories without regard to the First Amendment or due process." The Kansas teacher wishes to clear her disciplinary record and is seeking "nominal damages."