A federal judge has granted a temporary order in the case of a Kansas teacher who sued her district after she was suspended for refusing to address students by their “preferred pronouns.” A school policy also called for such information to be concealed from students’ parents, which has become commonplace in schools across the nation.
U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter partially granted a preliminary injunction on behalf of Fort Riley Middle School teacher Pamela Ricard preventing Geary County Schools Unified School District 475 from disciplining her over her refusal to use a student’s “pronouns.” Ricard, a Christian, argued that doing so would violate her religious beliefs.
The injunction lasts until next Wednesday or “at the conclusion of Plaintiff’s contractual responsibilities to the District, whichever is later.”
Ricard, a Kansas teacher since 2005, 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.
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.
Judge Teeter found that Ricard “is likely to succeed on her free exercise claim for the Communication with Parent Policy” but denied a preliminary injunction to Ricard’s claims against the school district policy requiring teachers to use preferred names and pronouns in class, according to The Christian Post.
Teeter further ruled that the Kansas teacher still be punished under the Communication with Parents Policy, which “prohibits employees from revealing to parents that a student has requested use of a preferred name or different set of pronouns at school” except under certain circumstances.
Ricard is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative legal nonprofit based in Arizona.
“No government official can force someone to speak contrary to their deeply held religious beliefs and convictions,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Pam has a distinguished teaching career and treats all her students with dignity and respect. We’re pleased the court has freed her to exercise her constitutionally protected freedom to teach and communicate honestly with parents while this case moves forward.”