Free Speech Victory for Kansas Teacher Who Didn’t Want to Mislead Parents About Students’ ‘Preferred’ Names or Pronouns

Geary County Schools in Kansas required teachers essentially to lie to parents. Under the previous policy, teachers had to use a student’s preferred name in class but use the student’s legal name when speaking to parents.

Pamela Ricard didn’t want to refer to males by female names or refer to males as “she.” Was the school district trying to hide students’ mental issues from parents?

School district officials suspended Ricard after she called a student by the legal name in class instead of the preferred name. In her lawsuit, she contends that the policy violated her First Amendment freedom to speak or not to speak and her religious beliefs. She asked a court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to block the school board from taking adverse action against her.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Kriegshauser Ney Law Group, which represents Ricard, announced that the court has granted her request. The court found Ricard probably would win her case against the school district. From ADF (emphasis added):

The court noted in its decision that the policy was riddled with exceptions for secular reasons, but the school district refused to make any accommodation for Ricard’s religious objection to deceiving parents. It further held that “it is illegitimate to conceal information from parents for the purpose of frustrating their ability to exercise [their] fundamental right” to direct the education and upbringing of their child.

ADF network attorney Joshua Ney said that once in court, the school district had “changed its policy yet again to accommodate Pam’s original request in order to avoid a preliminary injunction. Hopefully the district can begin creating policies that focus on educating children without forcing teachers to lie to parents and violating a parent’s right to know what is going on with their child.”

In a similar case, Nicholas Meriwether, who was a professor and football coach at Shawnee State University in Ohio, was suspended from his job for praying on the 50-yard line with players after the game. He sued and won a judgment of $400,000 against the university.

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