Oregon educators ask 9th Circuit to protect their right to speak on gender policy
MEDFORD, Ore. – Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and Pacific Justice Institute representing an Oregon teacher and administrator filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Thursday after a lower court ruled against their freedom of speech.
Rachel Sager (formerly Damiano) and Katie Medart 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 educators started a grassroots organization to speak out on gender identity education policy and offer solutions that would allow teachers to continue teaching without violating their conscience and that would respect the rights of parents.
“Public schools can’t retaliate against their staff for having and expressing opinions on fundamental issues of public concern—like gender identity education policy—that implicate the freedoms of educators, parents, and students. Not only does this harm the teachers’ careers and reputations, it also encourages staff and students to engage in cancel culture, shutting down views they don’t like,” said ADF Legal Counsel Mathew Hoffmann. “The First Amendment protects the freedom of Rachel and Katie, and every other educator across the country, to advocate for solutions they believe in. We urge the 9th Circuit to make clear that government employers can’t discipline someone for expressing her views on such an important issue.”
“For decades, the Supreme Court has encouraged educators and public employees to lend their ideas and voices to public debate, especially over the future of education. The firing of these brave educators in Oregon sent exactly the wrong message, punishing reasoned debate and effectuating a political purge,” said Brad Dacus, president and founder of PJI. “We are eager to take the next step toward vindicating their constitutional rights 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, the two started the grassroots movement “I Resolve” to promote “reasonable, loving, and tolerant solutions” for gender identity education policy that “respect everyone’s rights”—including those of educators, parents, and children. Their proposals allow teachers to abide by their conscience and refrain from using pronouns inconsistent with a student’s sex. “I Resolve” advocates for locker rooms, showers, and restrooms to be designated consistent with sex. It also endorses and gives students the option to request access to private restrooms and locker rooms.
After posting a video on their website promoting their organization and proposed policy solutions, Sager and Medart were placed on leave pending an investigation. The district superintendent sent an email to the community labeling Sager and Medart’s views as “in direct conflict” with school district values. The district ultimately terminated them for speaking out so Sager and Medart filed the lawsuit, Damiano v. Grants Pass School District 7.
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to protecting First Amendment and related freedoms for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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