Fort Riley Middle School math teacher Pamela Ricard sued Geary County USD 475 in March over the district’s policy of using students’ preferred pronouns. Now a judge has issued a preliminary injunction barring the school from reprimanding Ricard if she tells parents the preferred names and pronouns of her trans students.
The lawsuit came about after an incident in which Ricard refused to use a student’s preferred name,and instead repeatedly referred to the student as “Miss [student’s last name],” despite being reminded multiple times of the student’s preferred pronouns.
Ricard received a three-day suspension with pay for violating 11 of the district’s policies around bullying, diversity, and inclusion. This led the teacher to sue the district, stating, “Any policy that requires Ms. Ricard to refer to a student by a gendered, non-binary, or plural pronoun (e.g., he/him, she/her, they/them, zhe/zher, etc.) or salutation (Mr., Miss, Ms.) or other gendered language that is different from the student’s biological sex actively violates Ms. Ricard’s religious beliefs.”
“Ms. Ricard believes that God created human beings as either male or female, that this sex is fixed in each person from the moment of conception, and that it cannot be changed, regardless of an individual person’s feelings, desires, or preferences,” the suit states.
With the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Ricard won the injunction, which was brought before Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter.
In her ruling, Teeter said that the “plaintiff believes that addressing students one way at school and a different way when speaking to their parents is dishonest,” which “violates her sincere religious beliefs,” The Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
Ricard has two trans students, and neither of them has given the district permission to tell their parents their preferred names and pronouns, the paper reports Teeter wrote in the ruling. Ricard had used the students' preferred names in class.
"The Court relies on Plaintiff’s statements that she does not intend to communicate with a parent for the sole purpose of disclosing a student’s preferred name and pronouns," Teeter stated.
LGBTQ+ activists are pushing back against the Teeter's decision. “All students, including transgender and nonbinary youths, deserve to feel safe at school,” Will Rapp, a statewide organizer for the Kansas chapter of GLSEN, told the paper.
This underscores the importance of supportive educators who “are a lifeline and make all the difference” for LGBTQ+ students who aren’t supported in their homes, according to Rapp.
“Any effort to force teachers to out students to their guardians is a violation of young people’s privacy and can place vulnerable young people in harm’s way,” Rapp explained. “When transgender and nonbinary youth feel unsafe at school, they experience negative impacts not only to their health but to their academic achievement and likelihood of graduating or moving to higher education opportunities.”
Rapp’s statements are supported by a report from the Trevor Project which found that LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40 percent less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year.