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School Board Scraps Policy After ADF Lawsuit

A school district in Kansas tried to force teacher Pam Ricard to be dishonest with students and parents.
Alliance Defending Freedom
Published
Revised
A school district in Kansas tried to force teacher Pam Ricard to be dishonest with students and parents

Parents have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, but a policy from a school board in Geary County, Kansas, forced teachers to conceal important information about students from their parents.

One middle school teacher decided to push back against this unconstitutional policy, and with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, she eventually won a victory affirming rights for all parents and teachers.

 

Who is Pam Ricard?

Pam Ricard served as a math teacher at Fort Riley Middle School in Fort Riley, Kansas. Pam has spent decades in education, and she has always treated her students with the utmost dignity and respect.

Pam knows an integral part of teaching children is telling them the truth, but her school district threatened her ability to do that when they told her to use names and pronouns for students that were inconsistent with the students’ biological sex. What’s more, school policy forced Pam to keep parents in the dark about their children who may be struggling with gender dysphoria.

Pam knew she could not follow this policy without violating her religious beliefs, and the Constitution protects her from having to do that.

 

Ricard v. USD 475 Geary County Schools School Board Members

In April 2021, Fort Riley Middle School suspended Pam for three days after she declined to refer to a student by a name that was inconsistent with the student’s sex. At the time, neither the school nor the USD 475 Geary County School District had a formal policy about “preferred” names and pronouns.

One week after Pam returned from her suspension, the middle school principal sent new training documents to the staff mandating that teachers use students’ preferred names and pronouns when referring to them.

In October 2021, the district informed teachers about a new policy that had been approved by the school board. In addition to forcing teachers to use preferred names and pronouns, this new policy prohibited teachers from informing parents about their children’s decisions to go by new names and pronouns unless the student consented.

This policy would force Pam to violate her religious beliefs by denying truths to children about what it means to be male and female and dishonestly concealing information from the parents of her students. For those reasons, attorneys with ADF and Kriegshauser Ney Law Group assisted Pam in filing a lawsuit against the Geary County school district for violating her constitutional freedoms, including her First Amendment right to exercise her religion.

During arguments at a federal district court, the school district conceded that Pam could choose not to use any pronouns to refer to her students. This meant Pam was free to refrain from using pronouns inconsistent with a child’s sex. But the court still had to decide whether the district could compel teachers to conceal information from parents.

In May 2022, the court ruled Pam was likely to succeed on her claim that the district had violated her right to exercise her religion by forcing her to keep parents in their dark about their children. It issued an order temporarily barring the district from enforcing this policy while the lawsuit proceeded.

 

Outcome

After the ruling, the school board voted to revoke the policy prohibiting teachers from informing parents about their children’s choices of names and pronouns. The board then agreed to a settlement awarding $95,000 in damages and attorney’s fees, and ADF attorneys dismissed the complaint.

 

Case timeline

  • April 2021: Fort Riley Middle School suspended Pam for three days after she addressed a student by the student’s legal and enrolled last name. A week later, the school’s principal distributed training documents mandating that teachers use students’ preferred names and pronouns even if they were inconsistent with students’ biological sex.
  • October 2021: The school board informed teachers of a new district-wide policy requiring them to refer to students by their preferred names and pronouns. The policy also prohibited teachers from sharing this information with parents unless a student consented.
  • March 2022: Attorneys with ADF and Kriegshauser Ney Law Group filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pam alleging the school district’s policy violated Pam’s constitutional rights.
  • May 2022: A federal district court granted Pam’s motion to allow teachers to inform parents about their children’s preferred names and pronouns while her lawsuit proceeded.
  • August 2022: After the school board revoked the policy requiring teachers to conceal students’ decisions from their parents, the two parties agreed to a settlement that awarded Pam damages and attorney’s fees.

 

The bottom line

Teachers shouldn’t be forced to mislead parents and say things that are untrue and harmful to students.

Alliance Defending Freedom
Non-profit organization
ADF is the world's largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, marriage and family, and parental rights.