News (USA)

Christian teacher wins $95,000 settlement after misgendering student for “religious” reasons

Education doodles against teacher shouting at boy in classroom (Stock)
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A teacher in Kansas was awarded $95,000 Wednesday to settle a lawsuit after she misgendered a student but claimed that she should be allowed to because of her religious beliefs.

The former math teacher at Fort Riley Middle School, Pamela Ricard, claimed it was a violation of her religious beliefs to use the preferred pronouns of a trans boy student and insisted on addressing him as “miss.”

She was reprimanded and suspended for three days for violating the bullying, diversity, and inclusion policies. She sued the school district.

The lawsuit alleged the Geary County School District denied Ricard’s request for a religious exemption to its policy that school staff use students’ preferred pronouns. The district also directed teachers to use a student’s legal name when communicating with parents, concealing the student’s pronoun preference, according to the suit.

“No school district should ever force teachers to willfully deceive parents or engage in any speech that violates their deeply held religious beliefs,” Tyson Langhofer, Ricard’s lawyer, told the AP.

The anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Kriegshauser Ney Law Group filed the case on Ricard’s behalf.

Addressing the student as “miss” was Ricard’s attempted workaround to the school’s insistence she address him by his preferred name.

According to the lawsuit, Ricard believed using “Miss (legal/enrolled last name)” respected the student while also upholding Ricard’s religious convictions, despite the fact that that was deliberately misgendering the boy and also singling him out for differing treatment from his classmates.

Ricard said she believes God assigns gender at birth, according to the lawsuit. The school’s policy requiring her to use language that doesn’t conform to a student’s biological sex “actively violates Ms. Ricard’s religious beliefs.”

The settlement came about after a federal judge ruled the lawsuit could proceed, citing its likely success based on her free exercise of religion claim. The judge also granted Ricard’s motion to halt the district’s parental communication policy. Soon after, the district school board formally revoked the guidance.

The judge also ruled, incongruously, that Picard could avoid using students’ preferred pronouns but should address them by their preferred names.

Picard retired in May. Along with the $95,000 award, she won a statement from the school district that she was in good standing without any disciplinary actions against her.

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