A Kansas public school teacher has reached a $95,000 settlement with her employer after the school district suspended her for calling a trans-identified student by the student’s legal name instead of their chosen name after self-identifying as a different gender.
The religious liberty law firm Alliance Defending Freedom announced Wednesday that officials at the USD 475 Geary County school district and Fort Riley Middle School have agreed to pay middle school math teacher Pamela Ricard $95,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees after reprimanding and suspending her for three days with pay for declining to call a trans-identified student by their preferred name. At the time of her suspension, no official school district policy existed requiring teachers to do so.
In response, the principal of Fort Riley Middle School sent an email to faculty members stating, “When we have a student that requests to go by a preferred name that is different than their given name, our district honors that request. Once you are aware of a preferred name, use that name for the student.”
Shortly after her April 2021 suspension, the school district implemented a policy forbidding district officials from informing parents that their children were identifying as the opposite sex at school “unless the student requests the administration or counselor to do so.” Several other school districts have implemented similar policies, including Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, the largest district in the state.
Earlier this year, Ricard filed a lawsuit against the school district and its top officials in federal court, maintaining that requiring her to address students by a name that matches their chosen gender identity rather than their legal name and ignore biological facts contradicted her sincerely held religious beliefs “consistent with the traditional Christian and biblical understanding of the human person and biological sex.”
The lawsuit contended that her suspension over her views on gender identity violated her right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, who also serves as the director of the organization’s Center for Academic Freedom, cheered the development in a statement. “No school district should ever force teachers to willfully deceive parents or engage in any speech that violates their deeply held religious beliefs,” he said.
“We’re pleased to settle this case favorably on behalf of Pam, and we hope that it will encourage school districts across the country to support the constitutionally protected freedom of teachers to teach and communicate honestly with both children and parents,” Langhofer said.