A Kansas teacher suspended for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns and who said she was forced to hide the student’s social transition from their parents has been awarded $95,000 in a settlement, according to her legal representatives.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) shared the news regarding the agreement, declaring it a victory for free speech.
“No school district should ever force teachers to willfully deceive parents or engage in any speech that violates their deeply held religious beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom.
“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,” he added.
Former math teacher Pamela Ricard challenged a school district policy that required her to use a student’s preferred name while addressing the student but use the student’s legal name when speaking to parents. She argued that the actions violated her conscience.
Leaders at Fort Riley Middle School reprimanded and suspended Ricard in 2021 after she referred to a transgender student by the student’s legal name and pronouns that corresponded with their biological sex.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas allowed the case to move forward in May. The ADF also noted that the school board voted to revoke the parental communications policy after the court’s ruling at the time.
“This case provides straightforward lessons for Kansas school boards: Schools shouldn’t lie to parents and teachers don’t forfeit their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door,” said Joshua Ney, partner at Kriegshauser Ney Law Group and an attorney in the ADF Attorney Network.
“The Geary County School District unsuccessfully tried to convince a federal court that a teacher should completely avoid using a child’s name during a parent teacher conference in order to hide new names and genders being used by the school for a child in a classroom. Absurdity and deception has its limits, especially in federal court. I’m glad the case clarifies the financial stakes for school boards if they attempt to force teachers to lie to parents about their students,” Ney added.
In addition to the financial settlement, school officials agreed to issue a statement that Ricard was in good standing without any disciplinary actions against her when she retired in May.
The lawsuit was dismissed on Wednesday following the announcement of the settlement. NBC News reported that a Geary County Schools official said Thursday that the district had no comment on the settlement.