by Samantha Foster | 24News
Pamela Ricard was a math teacher at Fort Riley Middle School. She was reprimanded then suspended after challenging a school district policy requiring faculty to use a student’s preferred name and “prounoun” while addressing the student, and forcing them to hide the student’s social transition from their parents but use the student’s legal name when speaking to parents.
Ricard refused, asserting that the school policy violated her conscience.
Administrators at Fort Riley Middle School retaliated when Ricard asserted that a teacher should refer to students by their legal name and pronouns that corresponded with their biological sex.
They canned her. But Ricard refused to back down. She sued the Geary County School District.
And now she has prevailed.
In what many hope will be a precedent-setting case, the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas sided with Ricard, allowing her lawsuit to continue, in a ruling that can send ripples throughout the nation.
After the court’s ruling, school officials relented and agreed to pay Ricard a $95,000 settlement to avoid the wrath of a jury, and the case was withdrawn.
In addition to agreeing to pay the substantial fine, school officials agreed to reinstate Ricard and issue a statement noting that she was employed in good standing, had no disciplinary actions on her record and would be eligible to receive a full benefits package when she retired (as previously planned) in May.
Joshua Ney, partner at Kriegshauser Ney Law Group and an attorney in the ADF Attorney Network, commented on the ramifications of the ruling:
“This case provides straightforward lessons for Kansas school boards: Schools shouldn’t lie to parents, and teachers don’t forfeit their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door.”
Ney added: “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.
“Absurdity and deception have 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 ADF reported that the school board voted to revoke the parental communications policy following the settlement.