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Oregon educators to 9th Circuit: School officials can't restrict our speech

ADF attorneys available for media interviews following oral argument Monday
Katie Medart and Rachel Sager were fired for voicing their beliefs

WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys

WHAT: Available for media interviews following oral argument in Damiano v. Grants Pass School District 7

WHEN: Immediately following oral argument, which begins at 9:30 a.m. PDT, Monday, June 3

WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, Pioneer Courthouse, 700 S.W. 6th Ave., Portland. To schedule an interview, contact ADF Deputy Director of Media Relations AnnMarie Pariseau at (480) 417-3975.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys will be available for media interviews Monday following oral arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Damiano v. Grants Pass School District 7, in which attorneys with ADF and Pacific Justice Institute are representing two Oregon educators seeking to protect their freedom of speech and religion.

Rachel Sager (formerly Damiano) and Katie Medart filed their opening brief with the 9th Circuit in September urging it to protect their First Amendment rights. The two educators filed a lawsuit in 2021 against Grants Pass School District 7 after officials suspended and then terminated them for voicing—on their own online platform—their opinions about local, state, and national policy. The two educators received overwhelming support from a number of free speech advocates, a feminist group, and medical professionals who care for children.

“Educators are free to express opinions on fundamental issues of public concern—like gender identity education policy—that implicate the freedoms of teachers, parents, and students,” said ADF Legal Counsel Mathew Hoffmann, who will be arguing before the court. “Educators don’t give up their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate, and public schools can’t retaliate against speech with which they disagree. Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost teachers their jobs, especially when it comes to education policy, a topic on which they are uniquely qualified to speak. Teachers should be free to advocate for the good of their students. We are urging the 9th Circuit to make clear that government employers can’t discipline someone for expressing her views on such an important issue.”

“Educators who advocate for common sense and parental involvement should be applauded, not punished,” said Brad Dacus, president and founder of PJI. “We are privileged to stand alongside these brave educators and continue fighting for them at the Ninth Circuit.”

Sager and Medart have been in the education field for many years, including at North Middle School in Grants Pass. Sager served as assistant principal, and Medart taught science there. Together, they started a grassroots organization “I Resolve” to propose gender identity education policy proposals that respect the rights of students, parents, and teachers. The educators were forced to file a lawsuit against the school district for violating their rights to free speech and religious freedom. The district court ruled against them, prompting their appeal.

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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Mathew Hoffmann
Mathew Hoffmann
Legal Counsel
Mathew Hoffmann serves as legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is a key member of the Center for Academic Freedom.