In a Kansas lawsuit we’ve previously reported on, a Fort Riley middle school math teacher named Pamela Ricard has obtained an injunction from a federal district court judge protecting her from having to comply with a school district policy requiring her to lie to parents about their children’s sexual identity confusion.
USD 475 Geary County School District (“District”) implemented two policies regarding gender identity that Ricard alleges violate both her free speech as well as her religious freedom rights.
The first, the preferred names and pronouns policy, requires teachers to use the preferred names and pronouns requested by their students.
The second, regarding communications with parents, requires teachers not to communicate with parents for the purpose of revealing their child’s request to be referred to by different names and pronouns.
The policy further states that if there are communications regarding other matters – i.e., grades, discipline, etc. – teachers cannot refer to the students by their preferred names and pronouns. In essence, teachers must conceal the truth from parents about what is happening with their children concerning sexual identity confusion.
Ricard, a Christian, objected to both policies, and sued the District with help from attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
Following a court hearing on May 6, U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter granted a preliminary injunction in favor of Ricard as to the second policy, while noting that the parties had reached an agreement as to the first policy for the time being.
With regard to the preferred pronoun policy, Ricard agreed to call students by their preferred names while avoiding the use of any pronouns in her classes for any student. That was acceptable to the District, and the judge therefore felt there was no need to address the need for a preliminary injunction on that policy.
With regard to the policy on communications with parents, Ricard agreed that while the lawsuit is pending she would not contact parents for the purpose of talking about their child’s use of different names and pronouns, which implicates the first part of that policy. But she felt she could not intentionally deceive parents about the sexual identity issues their children may be having if it came up in other communications.
Judge Teeter agreed with Ricard on that last point.
“Here, Plaintiff demonstrates that the Communication with Parents Policy burdens her exercise of religion,” the judge’s ruling states.
“The Court finds Plaintiff’s testimony concerning her religious beliefs to be credible and subjectively sincere.”
The judge also noted that the District policy contains several exemptions which allow for the disclosure of a student’s preferred name and pronouns to parents, but there is no exemption based on religious belief. That disparity triggers “strict scrutiny” of the policy by the courts, and the District has a heavy burden to show why religious belief doesn’t form the basis for an exemption.
And Judge Teeter felt the District could not meet that burden in Ricard’s case, the failure of which justified the issuance of a preliminary injunction.
“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, in a press release. “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.”
The case will proceed to trial unless the parties reach a settlement first. But it highlights an ongoing problem for teachers and parents across the country faced with radical gender ideology being pushed in the schools. Encouraging students to keep their struggles with sexual identity from their parents, and forcing teachers and staff to lie to parents about those struggles, violates parental rights along with the First Amendment freedoms of school employees.
This legal victory, even though temporary in nature, should serve as an encouragement to both teachers and parents to push back against such destructive policies where they surface. These are not random policies occurring in only a few districts; there is a concerted effort from the left to insert this radical gender ideology into as many schools as possible.
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