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Middle school teacher refuses to use transgender students' preferred names, pronouns due to her Christian faith — then she's forced to resign, lawsuit says

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Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

A former middle school teacher in Ohio said she was forced to resign after refusing to use transgender students' preferred pronouns due to her Christian faith, and now she's suing her former school district, Alliance Defending Freedom said.

What are the details?

ADF said its attorneys filed the lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, on behalf of Vivian Geraghty, who taught English at Jackson Memorial Middle School in Massillon.

The suit says Jackson Local School District officials forced Geraghty to resign in August because she refused to abide by the district's requirement that she use transgender students' "preferred names and pronouns." ADF argues in its suit that such a requirement is "unconstitutional" and violates her "sincerely held religious beliefs." The suit also says "scientific understanding" is behind Geraghty's "view that a person is male or female based on sex, not personal identity, and participating in a student’s social transition violates those beliefs by forcing her to communicate messages she believes are untrue and harmful to the student."

More from ADF:

The controversy began when two students asked Geraghty to participate in their social transition. This included using new names to reflect a new asserted gender identity for both students and using pronouns inconsistent with one student’s sex. The school counselor e-mailed Geraghty and several other teachers with instructions to participate in the students’ social transition. In response, Geraghty approached the principal with the hope of reaching a solution that would allow her to continue doing what she had always done: teach her class without personally affirming as true things that she believes are false and harmful.

The principal and his superior, the school district’s director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, told Geraghty that “she would be required to put her beliefs aside as a public servant,” that her unwillingness to participate in a social transition in violation of her faith amounted to insubordination, and that continuing to teach consistent with her beliefs would “not work in a district like Jackson.” Further, the officials told Geraghty that, if she would not participate in the students’ social transitions, she must resign immediately.

“No school official can force a teacher to set her religious beliefs aside in order to keep her job," ADF legal counsel Logan Spena said. "The school tried to force Vivian to recite as true the school’s viewpoint on issues that go to the foundation of morality and human identity, like what makes us male or female, by ordering her to personally participate in the social transition of her students. The First Amendment prohibits that abuse of power. Jackson Local School District officials nonetheless forced Vivian to resign because she resisted this unconstitutional command and explained that it was her Christian faith that made her unable to participate in her students’ social transition.”

The lawsuit seeks Geraghty's reinstatement to her teacher position, compensation for lost wages, punitive damages, and a declaration that the district's policy is unconstitutional.

How did the school district respond?

"This district always will strive to provide a safe, comfortable environment for all of our nearly 6,000 students in which to learn," a spokesperson for Jackson Local School District told Fox News Digital when asked for comment about the lawsuit. "We have engaged legal counsel and we will have no further comment on pending litigation."

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