At Fort Riley Middle School in Fort Riley, Kansas, school administrators tried to force math teacher Pamela Ricard to call a girl a boy back in 2021. They also refused her a religious exemption, including when it came to concealing a student’s preferred pronouns and names from their parents if that was a student’s wish.
She sued — and on Wednesday, it was announced the school district had settled with her for $95,000.
According to The Associated Press, the former Geary County School District teacher filed suit in March after a reprimand and suspension last year.
Ricard’s punishment came after she called the student “Miss [surname],” as opposed to her preferred male name. The teacher felt this was an acceptable compromise, as it didn’t “deadname” her — the practice of calling an individual by their given birth name instead of their chosen name of the opposite gender, the sin of all transphobic sins in our new woke existence — while allowing her to maintain religious freedoms.
School administrators disagreed, leading to the lawsuit. In it, Ricard alleged that forcing her to use language that defies reality “actively violates Ms. Ricard’s religious beliefs” and that the school district also had a policy forcing teachers to go so far as to lie about their child’s chosen name if that’s what the student wanted.
“Ms. Ricard is a Christian and holds sincere religious beliefs consistent with the traditional Christian and biblical understanding of the human person and biological sex,” the complaint read.
“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. 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.”
Ricard had taught at the school since 2005 until her retirement in May — which she said was due in part to the dispute and in part to wanting to be closer to her family in Oklahoma.
Also in May, a judge had ruled that her lawsuit — which was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom Center for Academic Freedom, a conservative group, and the Kriegshauser Ney Law Group, which is affiliated with the organization — could proceed.
VICTORY: Kansas public school pays $95K after suspending teacher for refusing to deceive parents.
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal) August 31, 2022
The judge in the case said, according to the AP, that “she was likely to prevail on her free exercise of religion claim. The judge granted her motion to halt enforcement of the parental communication part of the policy and allowed her to continue addressing students by their preferred names while avoiding pronouns consistent with their preferences.”
Ricard’s lawyers said that, in the wake of the May ruling, the school board voted to change the policy mandating teachers dissemble about a student’s preferred pronouns and name. (The school didn’t respond to an AP request for comment about their current policy.)
In a statement on Wednesday, Ricard’s ADF-affiliated attorneys celebrated her victory — and the victory for freedom of speech and religion — in the case.
“No school district should ever force teachers to willfully deceive parents or engage in any speech that violates their deeply held religious beliefs,” said ADF senior counsel Tyson Langhofer, also the director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, in a media release.
“We’re pleased to settle this case favorably on behalf of Pam, and we hope that it will encourage school districts across the country to support the constitutionally protected freedom of teachers to teach and communicate honestly with both children and parents.”
In addition to the $95,000 settlement over the transgender pronouns policy, the district also agreed to issue a statement Ricard was in good standing with no disciplinary actions.
Joshua Ney, a partner at Kriegshauser Ney Law Group, said the “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.”
“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 has 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,” he added.
Don’t expect the lesson to be learned easily.
On the same day the settlement in Pamela Ricard’s case was announced, the ADF issued a media briefing about a lawsuit filed the previous day, this time against the Harrisonburg City Public School Board in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
The reason? “Upon a child’s request, Harrisonburg City Public Schools’ policy requires staff to immediately begin using opposite-sex pronouns and forbids staff from sharing information with parents about their child’s request, instead instructing staff to mislead and deceive parents.”
Of course. At the very least, the first teacher that challenges this blatantly unconstitutional policy can expect a tidy profit.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.