GEARY COUNTY, Kan. – A Fort Riley Middle School teacher was awarded $95,000 in damages and attorney’s fees after a lawsuit claimed her First Amendment rights were violated.
Pamela Ricard, a math teacher at the school, filed a lawsuit against the district after she was reprimanded and suspended for addressing a student by the student’s legal and enrolled name and forced her to conceal the student’s social transition from her parents, according to the Alliance for Defending Freedom.
The Alliance for Defending Freedom is a faith-based nonprofit that legally defends the First Amendment rights of speech and religious liberty.
Court documents indicate Ricard had been teaching in K-12 public schools for several decades and currently taught at USD 475 Geary County School District.
During the spring semester of 2021, the school began issuing “diversity and equity” training and emails directing teachers to use students’ “preferred name” instead of legal or enrolled names.
Ricard was reprimanded in April 2021 for addressing a biologically female student by the student’s legal name. Ricard had been told the student preferred the pronouns “he/him.”
According to court records, at no time did the student request being called by a preferred name. While the school did not have a specific policy regarding student-preferred names, Ricard was suspended and reprimanded under generic school district policies related to bullying by staff.
Ricard appealed her discipline to the Board of Education of Geary County Schools.
Ms. Ricard is a Christian and holds sincere religious beliefs consistent with theRicard’s complaint stating religious exemption to pronoun policy
traditional Christian and biblical understanding of the human person and biological sex. 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.
In October 2021 teachers were asked to adopt a new district-wide policy that called for instructors to use student’s preferred names and pronouns.