By: George William
Fort Riley Middle School officials have agreed to pay $95,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees for violating a math teacher’s First Amendment rights when they reprimanded and suspended her for addressing a student by the student’s legal and enrolled name and forced her to conceal the student’s social transition from the student’s parents.
“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.”
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.
“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 one of more than 4,400 attorneys 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.”
As part of the settlement in Ricard v. USD 475 Geary County Schools School Board Members, school officials have agreed to issue a statement that Ricard was in good standing without any disciplinary actions against her at the time of her retirement in May. In light of the favorable settlement, ADF attorneys filed a dismissal of the case Wednesday.