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Indiana school counselor fired for speaking about gender identity policy

ADF attorneys represent Kathy McCord after South Madison Community School Corporation fired her for speaking about the school district’s controversial policy
Kathy McCord headshot

INDIANAPOLIS – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a school counselor fired for speaking about a school district’s gender identity policy filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the South Madison Community School Corporation. In August 2021, the school district adopted a policy that required counselors and other employees to use names and pronouns for students that do not correspond with their sex, without requiring parental notification or consent. In some cases, it even required employees to hide these new names and pronouns from parents.

School counselor Kathy McCord, a 37-year veteran in the education field, objected to this new policy, which compelled her to speak in ways that violate her sincerely held religious beliefs. When a reporter asked McCord about South Madison’s policy, she confirmed the accuracy of information he had already gathered from other sources. Soon afterwards, he reported on the policy, and the school district fired McCord.

“No educator should be fired for expressing her beliefs, especially when she speaks in her personal capacity, on her own time, and out of concern for her students,” said ADF Senior Counsel Vincent Wagner. “Yet when Kathy spoke out about South Madison’s controversial new policy, the school district did just that. Kathy knows that kids do best when schools and parents work together. But South Madison’s harmful policy leaves parents in the dark. South Madison violated Kathy’s rights by forcing her to contradict her religious beliefs and participate in this policy. Schools can’t keep secrets from parents about their children’s mental health and wellbeing.”

According to the new policy, South Madison required counselors like McCord to use a form called a “Gender Support Plan” to document whenever the school decided to begin using cross-gender names or pronouns for a student and whether the school would notify a student’s parents. The new policy did not require parental consent, or even parental notification, to change a student’s name and pronouns. South Madison instituted this new policy without consulting the school community or parents, and without presenting the Gender Support Plan policy at a school board meeting or posting it on the district’s website.

McCord explained to her supervisors that she objected to this policy, particularly its requirement that she not seek parental consent before using cross-gender names and pronouns for a student. But her supervisors told her she had no choice: if she wished to keep her job, then she had to participate in the Gender Support Plan policy.

Notwithstanding South Madison’s lack of disclosure, some in the community eventually heard about the Gender Support Plan policy and tipped off a journalist. The reporter received a copy of the Gender Support Plan and other information regarding the policy from sources other than McCord. Before publishing his article, the reporter approached McCord with the information he had received, and she confirmed its accuracy as a member of the community, not as a representative of South Madison. Shortly afterward, South Madison terminated McCord’s employment.

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, McCord v. South Madison Community School Corporation, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Vincent Wagner Headshot
Vincent Wagner
Senior Counsel
Vincent Wagner serves as senior counsel with the Center for Parental Rights at Alliance Defending Freedom where he safeguards parents’ rights to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children.