A public school teacher in Kansas is suing the principal of her school, the district’s superintendent, and members of the school board after being suspended for not using a student’s preferred name.
Pamela Ricard taught math at Fort Riley Middle School. She says that she refused to use the preferred names and pronouns of transgender and nonbinary students because it violates her religious beliefs, CNN reported.
After being disciplined multiple times for refusing to refer to students by their preferred names, Ms. Ricard filed a lawsuit against the Geary County Schools Unified School District.
In the lawsuit, Ms. Ricard argues that school administrators preventing her from ignoring students’ preferred names and pronouns “deprived her of due process and equal protection of law” and violated her First Amendment rights to free speech and exercise of religion.
Her lawsuit maintains that her decision to ignore students’ preferred names and pronouns does not harm her students, but several LGBTQ-sympathetic organizations throughout the country disagree with this.
Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, the executive director of GLSEN, a national organization that emphasizes the LGBTQ+ agenda throughout the country’s K-12 schools, says that misgendering a child can have a serious impact on his or her confidence and mental health.
According to Ms. Ricard’s lawsuit, after the first time she ignored a student’s preferred name, the principal sent an email addressing all of the school’s teachers that said, “When we have a student that requests to go by a preferred name that is different than their given name, our district honors the request. Once you are aware of a preferred name, use that name for the student.”
Ms. Ricard also received several reminders to use a student’s preferred name and pronouns after referring to a biologically female student as “Miss [student’s last name].”
In April of 2021, Ms. Ricard was suspended for three days with pay. Her suspension alleged that she violated 11 district polices, including rules on bullying and diversity and inclusion.
She appealed the suspension several times to no avail.
“Ms. Ricard’s faith teaches her that God immutable creates each person as male or female,” her lawsuit states.
“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,” the lawsuit stated.
Despite the pending litigation, Ms. Ricard said that she enjoys her job.
She said, “I continue to enjoy teaching my students day in and day out, but the stigma of being officially labeled a ‘bully’ for simply using a student’s enrolled last name has been disheartening. I love all of my students, but I shouldn’t be forced to contradict my core beliefs in order to teach math in a public school."