A middle school math teacher in Kansas asserts she is doing no harm to her students in refusing to call them by their preferred names and pronouns. LGBTQ organizations and medical associations disagree. But the conflict Pamela Ricard primarily has is with her school district superintendent, board members, and principal, whom she sued on March 7. Ricard, a teacher at Fort Riley Middle School in Fort Riley, cites her Christian religious beliefs in her suit, which notes she believes "God immutably creates each person as male or female" and that referring to them in any way other than that biological sex violates her religious rights; as such, she contends her First Amendment rights to free speech and exercise of religion are being violated.
The Kansas City Star reports Ricard was suspended for three days over the spring 2021 semester after calling a student listed in school records as female by the student's last name only, rather than the student's preferred name and he/him pronouns. The Washington Post reports a fellow student in the class had previously told Ricard via email that the student was now using male pronouns. That second student responded by leaving a note on her desk which read, "his pronouns are He/Him & if you cant act like an Adult & respect him & his pronouns then prepare yourself to deal with his mother since you cant be a decent human being and respect him. All youre doing right now is showing that youre transphobic & don’t care that youre being visibly transphobic."
She was given a three-day paid suspension while the school looked into 11 potential violations of board policy. School officials determined three violations held and gave her a written reprimand. Per the suit, the school had no written policy on the subject of student names at the time, so Ricard was disciplined "under generic school district policies related to bullying by staff," per the Star. "I continue to enjoy teaching my students day in and day out, but the stigma of being officially labeled a 'bully' simply for using a student's enrolled last name has been disheartening," Ricard told CNN. She seeks "nominal damages" and for her school disciplinary record to be wiped clean. (Read more teacher stories.)