Kansas Teacher Files Lawsuit After Suspension Over Her Refusal to Use a Student’s Pronouns

A Kansas teacher is filing a lawsuit after she was suspended over her refusal to refer to a student by their preferred pronouns. Pamela Ricard, a teacher since 2005 and currently employed at Fort Riley Middle School, says referring to a student by anything other than their biological sex violates her religious Ricard.

Ricard received a three-day suspension in the spring of 2021 after refusing to use a biological female student’s “he/him” pronouns. Ricard said she would only refer to the student “by the student’s legal and enrolled last name” and not their “preferred” name or pronouns. The teacher was warned that any additional “misgendering” or calling any student by a name they do not go by would lead to further disciplinary action, reports the Kansas City Star.

The lawsuit was filed Monday, March 7, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. Ricard said that the student in question had not directly asked the teacher to call him by a different name or different pronouns, though a school counselor had, the lawsuit states. The teacher said she referred to the student as “Miss (last name),” which she intended as a way “to be respectful to the student without” compromising her own religious beliefs. Her attorney stated that the teacher regularly uses last names instead of first names “as a more formal way of addressing students or getting students’ attention.”

“Ms. Ricard was suspended and reprimanded under generic school district policies related to bullying by staff’ diversity and inclusion; and staff-student relations prohibiting ‘harassment’ and ‘bullying’ of students by staff,” the lawsuit states.

The school did not initially have a policy in place that required teachers to refer to students by “preferred” names and pronouns. Following Ricard’s suspension, the district’s middle school principal sent staff members training documents regarding the use of preferred names and pronouns. Ricard requested a religious exemption from the new policy during the appeal process for her suspension, which was refused.

“Any policy that requires Ms. Ricard to refer to a student by a gendered, non-binary, or plural pronouns or other gendered language that is different from the student’s biological sex actively violates Ms. Ricard’s religious beliefs,” the attorney said. The lawsuit also states that Ricard is a Christian and “holds beliefs consistent with those of the Bible.”

The lawsuit was filed against Geary County Schools superintendent Reginald Eggleston, Fort Riley Middle School principal Kathleen Brennan and seven Board of Education members. Ricard is seeking “nominal damages” and for her disciplinary record to be cleared.

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